Mental illnesses affect
everyone in some way. We all likely know someone who has
experienced a mental illness at some point. Yet there are still
many hurtful attitudes around mental illnesses that fuel stigma
and discrimination and make it harder to reach out for help.
It’s time to look at the facts.
Myth #1: Mental illnesses aren’t real illnesses.
FACT: The words we use to
describe mental illnesses have changed greatly over time. What
hasn’t changed is the fact that mental illnesses are not the
regular ups and downs of life. Mental illnesses create distress,
don’t go away on their own, and are real health problems with
effective treatments. When someone breaks their arm, we
wouldn’t expect them to just “get over it.” Nor would we
blame them if they needed a cast, sling, or other help in their
daily life while they recovered.
Myth #2: Mental illnesses
will never affect me.
All of us will be affected by mental illnesses.
Researchers estimate that as many as one in five Canadians will
experience a mental illness at some point in their life. You may
not experience a mental illness yourself, but it’s very likely
that a family member, friend, or co-worker will experience
Myth #3: Mental illnesses
are just an excuse for poor behaviour.
FACT: It’s true that some
people who experience mental illnesses may act in ways that are
unexpected or seem strange to others. We need to remember that
the illness, not the person, is behind these behaviours. No one
chooses to experience a mental illness. People who experience a
change in their behaviour due to a mental illness may feel
extremely embarrassed or ashamed around others. It’s also true
that people with a history of a mental illness are like anyone
else: they may make poor choices or do something unexpected for
reasons unrelated to symptoms of their illness.
Myth #4: 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.
Myth #5: People with mental
illnesses are violent and dangerous.
FACT: Some people try to
predict violence so they know what to avoid. However, the causes
of violence are complicated. Researchers agree that mental
illnesses are not a good predictor of violence. In fact, if we
look at mental illnesses on their own, people who experience a
mental illness are no more violent than people without a mental
illness. Excluding people from communities is linked to
violence. And people with mental illnesses are often among those
who are excluded. It’s also important to note that people who
experience mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims
of violence than to be violent.
Myth #6: People don’t
recover from mental illnesses.
FACT: People can and do
recover from mental illnesses. Today, there are many different
kinds of treatments, services, and supports that can help. No
one should expect to feel unwell forever. The fact is, people
who experience mental illnesses can and do lead productive,
engaged lives. They work, volunteer, or contribute their unique
skills and abilities to their communities. Even when people
experience mental illnesses that last for a long time, they can
learn how to manage their symptoms so they can get back to their
goals. If someone continues to experience many challenges, it
may be a sign that different approaches or supports are needed.
Myth #7: People who
experience mental illnesses are weak and can’t handle stress.
FACT: Stress impacts
well-being, but this is true for everyone. People who experience
mental illnesses may actually be better at managing stress than
people who haven’t experienced mental illnesses.
Many people who experience
mental illnesses learn skills like stress management and
problem-solving so they can take care of stress before it
affects their well-being. Taking care of yourself and asking for
help when you need it are signs of strength, not weakness.
Myth #8: People who
experience mental illnesses can’t work.
FACT: Whether you realize
it or not, workplaces are filled with people who have
experienced mental illnesses. Mental illnesses don’t mean that
someone is no longer capable of working. Some people benefit
from changes at work to support their goals, but many people
work with few supports from their employer. Most people who
experience serious mental illnesses want to work but face
systemic barriers to finding and keeping meaningful employment.
Myth #9: Kids can’t have
a mental illness like depression. Those are adult problems.
FACT: Even children can
experience mental illnesses. In fact, many mental illnesses
first appear when a person is young. Mental illnesses may look
different in children than in adults, but they are a real
concern. Mental illnesses can impact the way young people learn
and build skills, which can lead to challenges in the future.
Unfortunately, many children don’t receive the help they need.
Myth #10: Everyone gets
depressed as they grow older. It’s just part of the aging
FACT: Depression is never
an inevitable part of aging. Older adults may have a greater
risk of depression because they experience so many changes in
roles and social networks. If an older adult experiences
depression, they need the same support as anyone else. These
myths—and many more—exclude people with mental illnesses
from our communities and create barriers to well-being. If we
want to reduce the impact of mental illnesses on our
communities, we need to learn the facts and start with our own
assumptions and behaviours.
myths—and many more—exclude people with mental
illnesses from our communities and create barriers to
well-being. If we want to reduce the impact of mental
illnesses on our communities, we need to learn the facts
and start with our own assumptions and behaviours.
CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
whole story. These
stories from balanced
the "Myths of Mental Illnesses" Brochure from CMHA