Fact vs. fiction: Ending the stigma of mental illness

Many times we think we understand something well, but we may just not have all the facts.

 When it comes to mental illnesses, there is a misunderstanding on what it is, and most importantly what it isn’t. If you are considering treatment for yourself or someone you love, it is crucial to differentiate between fact and fiction. Here’s some help to know the truth:

FICTION: Only “crazy” people get mental health treatment.

FACT: Mental illness can happen to anyone. You are not alone. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMH) states that “one in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year and approximately 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 experience some kind of mental disorder in a given year.”

FICTION: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.

FACT: Mental illness is not caused by personal weakness. It is a disease like any other and cannot be easily cured by positive thinking or willpower. Mental illness is not related to a person’s character or intelligence. It falls along a continuum of severity. Some people require proper treatment.

Many times we think we understand something well, but we may just not have all the facts.

 When it comes to mental illnesses, there is a misunderstanding on what it is, and most importantly what it isn’t. If you are considering treatment for yourself or someone you love, it is crucial to differentiate between fact and fiction. Here’s some help to know the truth:

FICTION: Only “crazy” people get mental health treatment.

FACT: Mental illness can happen to anyone. You are not alone. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMH) states that “one in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year and approximately 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 experience some kind of mental disorder in a given year.”

FICTION: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.

FACT: Mental illness is not caused by personal weakness. It is a disease like any other and cannot be easily cured by positive thinking or willpower. Mental illness is not related to a person’s character or intelligence. It falls along a continuum of severity. Some people require proper treatment.

 

 

FICTION: People will think it is my fault and that I’m a bad person.

FACT: Like most diseases of the body, mental illness has many causes (genetics, biological, environmental, social/cultural). Consequently, it is not caused by one single factor. Mental illness usually strikes individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages, genders and races are susceptible.

FICTION: Children are not diagnosed with mental illness.

FACT: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that “Four million children in this country suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school and with peers. Half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14. Despite effective treatments, there are long delays, sometimes decades, between the first onset of symptoms and when people seek and receive treatment.”

FICTION: Men do not need to seek mental health treatment.

FACT: According to the NIMH, in America alone, more than 6 million men have depression each year. This does not include other types of mental illness prevalent among men such as anxiety disorder, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger management, and alcohol and substance abuse, among others.

FICTION: People with a mental illness will never get better.

FACT: The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective. The NIMH reports that “between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.” With appropriate effective medication and treatment, most people who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence.

Early identification and treatment is of vital importance.

Bonnie Weber-Richardson, is a member of Dunn County Mental Health Resource Network, a group of individuals that share knowledge of resources and programs. They work together to promote mental health and reduce the stigma of seeking treatment.

Claudia Interiano, a Mayo Clinic Health System–Red Cedar counseling intern, also contributed to this report.

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