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Mental Health Myths

Mental health problems: Don't buy into these myths

Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. will experience a diagnosable mental health illness during their lifetime. These illnesses are widely misunderstood, which can prevent people from getting the help they need.

Here's a look at six mental health myths that need debunking:

Myth: Mental health problems are a sign of weakness.

Reality: They're never the fault of someone who has one. Mental health problems are a treatable medical disorder, not a character flaw. Many factors play a role in how and why someone develops a mental health illness, including brain chemistry, genes that may run in families, and stressful or traumatic events.


Myth: Children never experience a mental health problem.

Reality: In half of people with a mental health illness, the first warning signs appear before age 14. And even very young children can show signs of mental distress.


Myth: Therapy is a waste of time.

Reality: Research shows that therapy, which is typically short-term, is very effective at helping people recover from a mental illness. But it works best when combined with medicine. When both are part of a treatment plan, up to 90% of all people see an improvement in their symptoms.


Myth: People who are mentally ill are violent.

Reality: The vast majority of people with a mental health problem are not violent. In fact, only between 3% and 5% of violent acts are attributable to people with a severe mental illness. Chances are you know someone with a mental health illness but don't realize it. That's because mental illness is often a hidden disease—many people who struggle with it remain highly productive members of society.


Myth: There's not much you can do for people with mental health problems.

Reality: You can make a big difference is someone's life. Only 44% of adults and less than 20% of children with mental health problems get necessary treatment. So if someone you know is struggling mentally, reach out. Let them know you're available to listen and support them and to help them find the mental health services they need.


Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians;; National Alliance on Mental Illness