Assumption #1: People with Mental Illness are Dangerous and Violent
“If it bleeds, it leads.” This means the media reports disproportionately on cases where people with mental health conditions commit violent acts. Then there’s the film industry where villains are often psychotic. This is one of the main reasons why the top Google image search results are of famous shooters and psychopathic characters from movies.
“There is more about school shootings than positive pieces about real people with mental illness who contribute daily to our world,”BipolarOnline.com CEO Blake LeVine told Talkspace.
Truth: People with Mental Illness Are More Likely to Be Victims
Mentally ill people are actually more likely to be victims of violence, according to a study published in the American Journal of Mental Health.
Most of them are not violent, said Recovery Empowerment NetworkCEO Gaye Tolman. During her more than 25 years of experience as a mental health professional, she encountered roughly one violent mentally ill person for every 10 she treated.
Assumption #2: Most Homeless People Are Mentally Ill
We all see the occasional mentally ill homeless person shouting obscenities or nonsense, clearly in dire need of psychiatric help. But it’s wrong to assume most homeless people are mentally ill or that they became homeless because of mental illness.
Truth: Most Homeless People Are NOT Mentally Ill
Only 33% of homeless people suffer from severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and major depression, according to multiple studies the Treatment Advocacy Center curated in 2014.
Assumption #3: White People Suffer More from Mental Illness
White people receive more treatment for mental illness because they tend to come from privilege that makes them more open to and able to access it. This breeds the assumption they must be more predisposed to mental illness. They do not, however, suffer from it the most.
Truth: Minorities Suffer More from Mental Illness
Due to economic and cultural disadvantages that cause increased stress, minorities are more vulnerable to mental illnesses such as depression.
“Unfortunately, cultural stigma regarding counseling and medication prevents many ethnic minority individuals from seeking mental health treatment,” Kimber Shelton, Ph.D., told Talkspace.
African Americans are most at risk and have limited access to mental health care, according to the American Psychological Association.
Assumption #4: People Who Look or Act Happy/Normal Aren’t Mentally Ill
Therapist Jessica Marchena, LMHC, told Talkspace about a family friend who committed suicide despite having a great career and being happily married. People who don’t understand mental illness look at those like Marchena’s friend and think, “Everything seems to be going great for him. How could he be depressed?”
Truth: Mentally Ill People Don’t Act or Look a Certain Way
The face of mental illness can be the same as any other. It doesn’t make people look or behave in any way we are guaranteed to notice or perceive as abnormal. Remember people with mental illness are not “crazy.”
Assumption #5: People With Mental Illness Are at Fault Because They Don’t Have Enough Willpower to Change
Therapist Michelle Cleary has met people who believe those who struggle with depression can will away their symptoms but are too lazy and unmotivated to do so. Roughly half of the other mental health professionals we spoke with listed this as a common misconception about depression and mental illness as a whole.
People sometimes exacerbate this by judging the mentally ill as melodramatic or too stubborn to change, Seattle-based counselorKristen Martinez told Talkspace.
Truth: People Are Usually Not at Fault
Blaming someone for struggling with depression is like telling a woman with breast cancer she is dying because she doesn’t want to live badly enough. Mental or not, illnesses can come without just cause. People can be barreling towards the diagnosis without realizing it. And that’s not the only similarity mental and medical illnesses have.
Assumption #6: Mental Illness and Physical Illness Are Separate
People who don’t understand mental illness say the symptoms are “not real” or “in your head,” but the mind affects the body and vice versa.
This is an especially prevalent issue for mothers who suffer from postpartum depression, said psychologist Katayune Kaeni. People make them feel something is “wrong with them” rather than accepting it as an illness to be treated.
Truth: Mental Illness Can Have Medical Symptoms and Visa Versa
Mental illnesses such as depression have caused aches, pain, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, appetite changes and more, according to the National Library of Medicine. Conversely, thestress of coping with medical illnesses can lead to mental illness. The mind and body are intertwined and tend to push and pull on each other rather than acting independently.
Assumption #7: People with Mental Illness Need Medication
Because psychotropic medications such as antidepressants are a popular way to treat mental illness, those not familiar with it assume drugs are necessary and that mentally ill people take them their entire lives.
Truth: Meds Are Not Always Necessary
People have used psychotherapy alone to treat mental illness or a combination of therapy and medication. In many cases, clients prefer talk therapy only.