Quality, Accessible, and Comprehensive Mental Health Care

Myths and Facts

Mental Health Problems Affect Everyone

Myth: Mental health problems don't affect me.

Fact: Mental health problems are actually very common.

In 2011, about:

  • One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue
  • One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
  • One in 20 Americans live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It accounts for the loss of more than 38,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.


Myth: Children don't experience mental health problems.

Fact: Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns. These mental health problems are often clinically diagnosable, and can be a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.

Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs.


Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact: The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else.

Most people with mental illnesses are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.


Myth: People with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

Fact: With support and treatment, people with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. They experience no more difficulty with work expectations than the general population.

When employees with mental health problems receive effective treatment, it can result in:

  • Lower total medical costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Decreased disability costs

Myth: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Fact: Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak.

Research indicates there are often biological or genetic factors that increase vulnerability to mental illness. The myth of laziness or character weakness is one of the most negative and stigmatizing to those who experience mental health problems.

Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genetics, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

People with mental health problems can and do get better and many recover completely.


Helping Individuals with Mental Health Problems

Myth: There is no hope for people with mental health problems. Once a friend or family member develops mental health problems, he or she will never recover.

Fact: Studies show that people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely.

Rates of recovery/symptom remission are higher for mental health problems than for heart disease, hypertension or diabetes. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities. There are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before, and they work.


Myth: Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?

Fact: Treatment for mental health problems varies depending on the individual and could include medication, therapy, or both.

Medication can reduce the impact of biological symptoms such as sleep and appetite disturbances. Therapy also helps individuals to gain knowledge regarding self-care, relationship building and relapse prevention which promotes improved quality of life. Many individuals work with a support system during the healing and recovery process.


Myth: I can't do anything for a person with a mental health problem.

Fact: Friends and loved ones can make a big difference.

Through loving and trusting relationships individuals with mental health problems can receive support and assistance needed to move forward with hope toward recovery. Only 38% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems, and less than 20% of children and adolescents, receive needed treatment. Friends and family can be important influences to help someone get the treatment and services they need.

Ways you can help:

  • Reach out and communicate that you are available
  • Promote access to mental health services
  • Educate and communicate accurate information about mental illness challenges
  • Avoid the use of “labels” when discussing individuals with mental health problems

Myth: Prevention doesn’t work. It is impossible to prevent mental illnesses.

Fact: Prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders focuses on addressing known risk factors such as exposure to trauma that can affect the chances that children, youth, and young adults will develop mental health problems.

Promoting the social-emotional well-being of children and youth leads to:

  • Higher overall productivity
  • Better educational outcomes
  • Lower crime rates
  • Stronger economies
  • Lower health care costs
  • Improved quality of life
  • Increased lifespan
  • Improved family life
  • Prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders begins with building healthy communities and relationships. Trauma prevention, positive health habits, respectful communication and understanding the worth of all individuals go a long way to prevent and heal emotional wounds and promote mental health.