The stigma associated with mental illness still persists despite living in what should be a more educated and aware society. These facts that we reveal about mental health problems can help to challenge the myths that persist and contribute to the discrimination that so many people with mental illness still face.
It is important for us to challenge these myths, in particular, the link that many people associate between violence and mental illness so we can understand the real facts about what mental health problems are and how they can affect you and those around you.
Myth 1: Mental illness is rare
FACT : Mental illness is common and affects at least one in five people. It is likely that someone you know suffers from a mental illness and like so many feel embarrassed to talk about it because of the stigma and false perceptions associated with it. And with statistics such as these, it is evident that we are all prone to developing some form of mental illness at some stage of our life.
Myth 2: People in ‘Mental’ Hospitals are kept in padded cells
FACT : Psychiatric hospitals are heavily regulated and should provide comfortable therapeutic environments to aid with recovery. The mental image that many have of an asylum with dangerous people running around is as far from reality as you can get. Psychiatric hospitals are now designed to provide low stimulus and comfortable environments.
Myth 3. Electronvulsive therapy (ECT) is common
FACT : Most people with a mental illness are treated with medication or psychology or a combination of both. ECT is rarely used in the age of modern psychiatry. When ECT is used it is heavily regulated and in no way even similar to the ‘Shock Therapy’ portrayed in the movies and in the media.
Myth 4: People with mental illness are unable to work or function in society
FACT : The majority of those with a mental illness are with the right help able to work and function independently in society.
Myth 5: Mental illness is caused by a personal weakness.
FACT : A mental illness is not a character flaw. It is caused by genetic, biological, social and environmental factors. Seeking and accepting help is a sign of strength.
Myth 6: People with mental illnesses are violent and dangerous
FACT : People who experience mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims of violence than to be violent. Those with a mental illness are often far more vulnerable than those without and often fall prey to criminals. Mental illness is often portrayed in a sensationalist manner in movies and in the media, creating the wrong perception of those with a mental illnesses being violent axe wielding individuals. Entertainment and news media present those with a mental illness as the most dangerous people in society. The fact is most axe wielding criminals have no form of mental illness whatsoever, whilst studies show that those with a mental illness are four times more likely to be the victims of crime.
Myth 7: People with a mental illness never get better.
FACT : With the right kind of help, most people do recover and lead healthy, productive and satisfying lives. Some famous people who have overcome mental illness include, Jon Nash who won a Nobel Prize, Mel Gibson and Katherine Zeta Jones.
Myth 8: People with a mental illness can “pull themselves out of it”.
FACT : A mental illness is not caused by personal weakness and is not “cured” by personal strength.
Myth 9: Bad parenting causes mental illnesses.
FACT : No one factor can cause mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are complicated conditions that arise from a combination of genetics, biology, environment, and life experiences. Family members and loved ones do have a big role in support and recovery.
FACT : People with a mental illness are some of the most vulnerable in society and despite the high prevalence still find themselves ostracized. The stigma around mental illness causes some people to avoid living, socialising, or working with those with a mental illness. This in turn leads to those with a mental illness having low self-esteem, becoming isolated, and invariably developing a sense of hopelessness. It should be a hallmark of a civilised society that we take care and support those that cannot take care of themselves at times and not to marginalise them.