Mental illness is common. Statistics show that one in four of us will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. 

Mental illnesses account for a large percentage of hospital stays every year. Yet, despite the fact that we all know someone who has been, or will be, affected by mental illness, few people know very much about it.

It is human nature to fear what we don't understand. As such, mental illness is feared by many people and, unfortunately, still carries a stigma (a stigma is defined as a mark or sign of disgrace). Because of this stigma, many people hesitate to get help for a mental health problem for fear of being looked down upon. It is unfortunate that this happens because effective treatment exists for almost all mental illnesses. Worse, the stigma experienced by people with a mental illness can be more destructive than the illness itself.

The myths of mental illness

People with mental illness are violent and dangerous

The truth is that, as a group, mentally ill people are no more violent than any other group. In fact, they are far more likely to be the victims of violence than to be violent themselves.

People with mental illness are poor and/or less intelligent

Many studies show that most mentally ill people have average or above-average intelligence. Mental illness, like physical illness, can affect anyone regardless of intelligence, social class or income level.

Mental illness is caused by a personal weakness

Mental illness is not a character flaw. It is an illness, and it has nothing to do with being weak or lacking will-power. Although people with mental illness can play a big part in their own recovery, they did not choose to become ill, and they are not lazy because they cannot just 'snap out of it.'

Mental illness is a single, rare disorder

Mental illness is not a single disease but a broad classification for many disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, eating disorders and organic brain disorders.

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The page was last updated on 12 June 2014 by andrea.bateman.

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