Dismantling the myths surrounding mental health is important in breaking down stigmas and creating a culture that encourages everyone to seek support and to prioritize mental well-being. Here are the top 10 most common myths and truths about mental health.
Myth: Mental health issues are uncommon
Truth: 20% of people experience mental health issue every year, and 1 in 25 experience a mental health disorder serious enough to interfere with or limit major life activities.
Myth: It’s not possible to prevent mental health conditions
Truth: There are many ways to proactively promote your mental wellbeing. Some of these include developing strong social support systems and emotional skills, prioritizing personal relationships, and maintaining a consistent sleep routine. Getting regular exercise is also another component of developing strong psychological resilience.
Myth: A mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness or lack of discipline
Truth: Mental health struggles have nothing to do with how personally motivated an individual is. Instead, mental wellbeing can be affected by a host of internal and external factors such as genes, physical illness, life experiences, history of trauma or abuse, etc. Just as you would not blame someone for having a more stereotypically “physical” health condition, it is not fair to blame someone for having a mental health condition.
Myth: People with mental health conditions are violent or dangerous
Truth: This perception leads to societal bias and stigma against those with mental health issues, which in turn contributes to an increased non-disclosure of mental illness and decreased treatment seeking. This characterization, however, is unjust and unfounded by evidence. Only 5% of violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by people with serious mental illness. In fact, individuals with mental health struggles are much more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general public.
Myth: People with depression don’t heave a mental health disorder, they’re “just sad”
Truth: Sadness is a natural human emotion that everyone feels to varying degrees at different times in their lives. Unlike sadness, depression is an all-encompassing mental dejection that impairs all aspects of one’s life, making it difficult to find enjoyment in relationships and activities you previously enjoyed.
Myth: Children and teens don’t have mental health issues
Truth: Approximately half of all mental health disorders present early signs before a person turns 14, while three-quarters of mental health disorders begin before 24. All too often, behavioral changes in children are attributed to being moody or “going through a stage.” While there is overlap between symptoms of mental health issues and adolescent misbehavior, signs of psychological distress in children should not be brushed off or dismissed.
Myth: People with mental health disorders are only seeking attention
Truth: Just as you would not choose to have a physical illness, people do not choose to have mental illnesses. Causes and symptoms for mental health issues are complex and often not apparent to an observer, which—while making it harder to relate—does not make the condition any less real.
Myth: People with mental health struggles are not stable enough to manage the stress of a full-time job
Truth: In the vast majority cases, individuals with mental health issues are just as capable and productive as any other employee. Having a job can also provide beneficial structure and sense of purpose to individuals managing mental health issues.
Myth: Individuals cannot recover from mental health problems
Truth: Mental illnesses are treatable conditions. Studies show that there is great potential for individuals with mental health problems to improve and, in many cases, completely recover.
Myth: Mental health only becomes important when you have a mental health condition.
Truth: Everyone can benefit from proactively taking steps to improve their mental wellbeing.
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1. Varshney, M., Mahaptra, A., Gupta, R., & Deb, K. (2016). Violence and mental illness: what is the true story? J Epidemiol Community Health, 70(3), 223-5.