Five Common Myths

Common Myths and Facts 

1. Kids will be kids.

  • Myth: Teenagers don’t suffer from “real” mental illnesses — they are just moody.
  • Fact: One in five teens has some type of mental health problem in a given year.
  • Myth: Talk about suicide is an idle threat that need not be taken seriously.
  • Fact: Suicide is the third leading cause of death among high school students and the second leading cause of death in college students. Talk about suicide should always be taken seriously.
  • Myth: Childhood mental health problems are really the result of poor parenting.
  • Fact: If someone in your family has a mental illness, then you may have a greater chance of developing the illness, but mental illness generally has little or nothing to do with parenting.

2. “Just snap out of it!”

  • Myth: Mental illness is an indication of weakness, and those experiencing problems should just “snap out of it.”
  • Fact: Mental illnesses are just that: illnesses. They are not character flaws. Facing a mental illness and going through the process of therapy takes an enormous amount of emotional and physical strength.
  • Myth: Mental illness is not real and cannot be treated.
  • Fact: Mental disorders are as easy to diagnose as asthma, diabetes and cancer and have a range of effective treatments for most conditions.
  • Myth: Mental illnesses are not “real” medical illnesses.
  • Fact: Mental illnesses can be just as disabling as other medical illnesses, and many are at least partly biological in nature.
  • Myth: We’re good people. Mental illness doesn't happen to my family.
  • Fact: One in four families is affected by a mental health problem.
  • Myth: Eating disorders only affect celebrities and models.
  • Fact: Each year eating disorders and binge eating affect 24 million Americans. Eating disorders claim more lives each year than any other mental disorder.

3. It’s just “the blues.”

  • Myth: Children are too young to get depressed, it must be something else.
  • Fact: More than two million children suffer from depression in the United States and more than half of them go untreated.
  • Myth: It’s not depression, you're just going through a phase.
  • Fact: Nineteen million adults in the United States suffer from some form of depression every year.
  • Myth: Senior citizens don't get depressed, it’s just an expected part of aging.
  • Fact: Five million older Americans suffer from clinical depression and account for 20% of all suicides.

4. People with mental illness are just weak.

  • Myth: A homeless person with a mental illness has little chance of recovery.
  • Fact: Homelessness can be significantly decreased when people are connected to case management, supported housing and related services.
  • Myth: People who abuse drugs aren’t sick, they are just weak.
  • Fact: Over 66% of young people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health problem which complicates treatment.
  • Myth: Having an addiction is a choice that shows a lack of willpower and morality.
  • Fact: Addiction is a disease generally resulting from changes in brain chemistry, and often involves a genetic component. It is no more a choice than being diagnosed with cancer or diabetes.
  • Myth: Troubled youth just need more discipline.
  • Fact: Almost 20% of youths in juvenile justice facilities have a serious emotional disturbance and most have a diagnosable mental disorder.

5. We just can’t afford to treat it.

  • Myth: Insurance doesn’t need to cover mental health, it’s not a big problem.
  • Fact: Fifty-four million Americans are affected by mental illness each year, regardless of ethnicity, sex or socioeconomic class.
  • Myth: Doctors are too busy treating physical problems to deal with mental health.
  • Fact: Up to one-half of all visits to primary care physicians are due to conditions that are caused or exacerbated by mental illness.
  • Myth: Mental illness is a personal problem not a business concern.
  • Fact: Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States over back problems, heart disease and liver failure.