Today, oftentimes the public’s perception of mental illness is much like its perception of cancer in the past. The American Psychiatric Association and organizations that advocate for individuals with mental illness have worked to destroy those myths. But many are hard to defeat. We hope the following helps identify and put and end to many myths that underlie people’s reaction to those suffering from mental illness and from the diseases themselves.
Myth: Schizophrenia is the same as split personality.
Fact: Schizophrenia affects a person’s ability to think and distorts his/her sensory perceptions. It has a clear biological basis. Schizophrenia causes disturbances in thinking, feeling and relating to others. Symptoms of Schizophrenia may include hallucinations, delusion, altered senses, distorted reality, flat or inappropriate emotions, paranoia, fear and/or withdrawal from family and friends.
Myth: People who are depressed all of the time need to snap out of it.
Fact: A depressive disorder is an illness involving your body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.
Myth: Confronting a person about suicide will only increase their risk of suicide.
Fact: Asking someone directly about suicidal intent lowers anxiety, opens up communication and lowers the risk of an impulsive act.
Myth: Individuals with mental illness are usually out of control.
Fact: Individuals with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of crime than the perpetrator. People suffering from psychiatric disorders tend to be passive and to avoid others. Most mental illnesses manifest themselves in passive, non aggressive, behavior and they make a person more vulnerable.
Myth: Mental illness stems from childhood trauma.
Fact: Mental illness can be the result of many factors. However, major mental illness is a biological brain disorder. Many scientists believe that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, not enough of a certain chemical being produced, just as diabetes inhibits the production of insulin.
Myth: Suicidal people keep their plans to themselves.
Fact: Most suicidal people communicate their intent during the week before their attempt.