Mental Health Myths
Unfortunately, many people misunderstand or discriminate against those who have mental health conditions and substance use disorders. This discrimination is often based on negative, untrue, and harmful societal perceptions. These stereotypes prevent people from getting the help they need and reduce their ability to be mentally healthy.
Here are some myths and facts about mental illness and a few tips to help you better promote mental wellness.
Myth: People with mental health conditions are dangerous.
Fact: The vast majority of people with a mental health condition are no more likely to be violent than those without a condition. People with severe mental illness, like schizophrenia, are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than people in the general population1. There is no reason to fear someone with mental illness just because of the diagnosis.
Myth: People with mental health conditions are irresponsible or lazy.
Fact: Too often we mistakenly attribute laziness to people who have mental health conditions like depression or anxiety that disrupt their ability to work and be active. The truth is that the illness can make it more difficult for someone to take care of daily needs like work, school, or grooming2. We should not call this laziness, just as we wouldn’t call someone lazy who stays in bed with the flu. If we call someone lazy, we do it to dismiss them, not understand them.
Myth: People with mental health conditions are weak.
Fact: Mental health problems have nothing to do with being weak and many people need help to get better. Weakness doesn’t cause mental health conditions. Rather, they are caused by biological, environmental, and genetic factors2, 3. You probably know someone with a mental health challenge and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health conditions are highly active, productive members of our communities.
Myth: People with mental health conditions can ‘just stop’ or ‘snap out of it’.
Fact: It is true that people with mental health conditions can get better and many recover completely. However, it does not happen overnight or by simply mentally willing themselves to get better. Recovery can include medications, therapy, or other treatments, and often includes a combination of these2, 3.
Every one of us can play an active role in ending the negative perceptions associated with behavioral health conditions. By learning more, you can make a difference in promoting mental wellness!
Talk Openly About Mental Health
Don’t be afraid to talk with those in your life about these conditions. If you have a behavioral health condition, be open about your story. This may invite others to own and share their experiences, which helps reduce the shame associated with having these conditions. Sharing your story can have an incredible, positive impact. You can provide someone else the courage and strength to come forward and open the door for them to pursue a path toward recovery.
Educate Yourself About Mental Health
Take advantage of every learning opportunity you can to gain more information about mental health conditions. You can learn more about each condition by visiting:
You will find many other resources on this website, including these online modules that will give you a basic overview of many of these behavioral health conditions.
1. MentalHealth.gov – Mental Health Myths and Facts
2. National Institutes of Health (US); Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. NIH Curriculum Supplement Series [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health (US); 2007. Information about Mental Illness and the Brain.
3. MentalHealth.gov – What is Mental Health?