Understanding mental health

Mental Illness: Myths and Facts

White Swan Foundation

Myth: There’s nothing called mental illness. People fake it.

Fact: Mental health is for real. Just as other parts of your body could face health issues, your brain could be affected by one or more mental health problems, which impact the ability to lead a normal life.

There are several kinds of mental health illnesses and the severity with which they affect people may vary. We should accept the fact that mental health issues are for real and they need to be addressed through the intervention of professional assistance.

Myth: I will never have mental health problems / It only affects poor people.

Fact: One in five people suffer from mental health problems, and it can affect anyone. Cases of common mental disorders are increasing. People of all ages, communities, economic strata and cultures can be affected with mental health problems. We must take mental health seriously and act to understand ways of preventing it, treating it and coping with it.

Myth: Mental health issues cannot be treated

Fact: Most mental health problems can be treated provided they are diagnosed and treated early enough and appropriately. Successful recovery also depends on the right kind of support and assistance provided by the caregivers. In other cases, treatment can be provided to mitigate the impact of serious mental disorders so that the person can take better control of their life.

Myth: Mental health problems occur in people who are weak.

Fact: The onset of a mental health problem has nothing to do with the ‘mental strength’ of a person. It is also not related to their personality traits. Mental illness can occur due to one or more of the following factors – social, genetic, biological, environmental and psychological.

Myth: One should fear people who have a mental health issue as they are always violent and could harm others.

Fact: People with mental health issues are not always violent, and certainly not due to their mental illness. At most, they are as violent as any 'normal' person would be, given the treatment meted out to them. These people are known to be more prone to self-harm. Also they are harmed by the ‘normal’ people, instead of they causing harm to others. It is the wrong belief that makes us fear people with mental health issues.

Myth: People with mental illness must be put in hospitals or asylums.

Fact: Most people with mental illnesses need not be hospitalized. In some cases, they may have to be hospitalized as part of their treatment cycle. However, they do not need to be in hospitals or psychiatric facilities for a long duration or permanently. In fact, a major factor that plays a crucial role in the person's recovery is the proximity of their caregivers and loved ones. They need the comfort of their homes in order to recover.

Myth: Mental health problems arise because of a weak mind. If you have a strong mind, you will not have any mental health problems.

Fact: The affliction of a mental health illness has nothing to do with the ‘mental strength’ of a person. Our minds are susceptible to environmental, psychological and biological factors.

Myth: People with mental health issues can easily come out of the problem by controlling their minds.

Fact: It is true that mental health has to do with the brain. And, recovery depends on the person’s willingness to take treatment and recover. However, recovery from a mental health problem is not about controlling the mind. There’s much more to it, which includes proper care and treatment.

Myth: People with mental health problems cannot take up a job.

Fact: Depending on the severity and nature of the mental health problem,  a person with mental illness can lead a normal life while coping with their condition. They can take up a job that best suits them and supports their recovery. 

Myth:Therapies and counseling don’t help people with mental illness. You cannot talk them out of it.

Fact: Therapy and counseling are integral part of the recovery process of most mental health problems. While in some cases, therapies or counseling would suffice, in others it will need to be complemented with prescribed medication. Scientifically conducted therapies or counseling sessions have been proven to help in the recovery of a person with mental illness.

Myth: There’s nothing called preventing mental health problems. It just doesn't work.

Fact: As mentioned above, mental health problems arise due to several factors - biological, environmental and psychological. If we could control some of these factors, we could prevent several mental health problems. The simplest case is substance abuse. With the right living environment, we can prevent many of the common mental disorders.

Myth: Mental health issues occur when the devil or a departed soul enters the body.

Fact: This is perhaps the oldest myth that must be removed from our minds. Nothing can be further from the truth. Mental health issues affect the mind and what happens to the mind has nothing to do with religion or one’s religious beliefs. In fact, blind beliefs in such false myths could worsen a person’s mental illness and could hamper the possibility of their recovery.

Myth: You need to consult a psychiatrist for all your mental health problems.

Fact: While psychiatrists are mental health experts you can seek for mental health problems, there are several disorders that could be treated by other professionals such as clinical psychologists, counselors and therapists. They are trained to treat most of the common mental disorders. In many treatment processes, consulting both psychiatrists and psychologists/counselors is recommended.

Myth: We cannot do anything to help a person with a mental health problem.

Fact: You, as a caregiver, can play a crucial role in the recovery of your dear ones who suffer from mental health problems. One of the most important needs of a person with mental illness is a supportive and understanding environment. You form that environment for your dear ones. By making them aware that you are there for them, and by treating them as normal human beings, you can make a marked difference in making them feel secure, which in turn aids their recovery. To be able to do so, you will need to empower yourself with the right knowledge about mental health.

White Swan Foundation