Seeking help is the right thing to do
People experiencing mental illnesses can and do recover — resuming their usual activities with adequate support and treatment.
However, many individuals have trouble getting past societal stigma when seeking treatment for mental illnesses. Something that is uncommon in the case of physical illnesses.
For example, if a person is experiencing a bad cough or recurrent pain, they go to the doctor. But they think twice if they have a troubling change in their mood, sleep patterns, or relationships. They may dismiss these symptoms as minor when they may be signs of a mental illness. Due to societal embarrassment and stigma associated with myths surrounding mental illnesses, this type of dismissal is not rare.
The most common myths associated with mental illness
Thanks to advances in research and education, we now understand mental illnesses more than ever. The following long-standing mental illness myths have been debunked:
Myth #1: Mental illness is a sign of weakness
Experts now believe that mental illnesses can be caused by any combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.1
As a result, people experiencing mental illnesses may also experience symptoms beyond their control, such as sadness, irritability, and, in more extreme cases, hallucinations or withdrawal.
With the proper treatment, people with mental illnesses can get better and return to their everyday lives.
Myth #2: Seeking help may jeopardize one's job
Some people are concerned that their employer will somehow find out if they seek treatment for mental illnesses. However, employees are protected by law from any type of disclosure from both a privacy and non-discrimination perspective. Employees’ health information cannot be disclosed without their authorization.2
Myth #3: General misconceptions about therapy
Those unfamiliar with the therapy process fear that it is a deep, invasive probe into their childhood traumas and innermost thoughts. However, therapy is typically more about problem-solving — a series of sessions focusing on certain limiting behaviors or thought patterns and learning constructive techniques to change them.
This type of therapy can be highly effective when people address their symptoms early, especially before they become job or life-threatening.
Myth #4: Symptoms will go away on their own
If a person is struggling with mental health symptoms, the worst thing they can do is ignore them and hope their symptoms will disappear — particularly when these become ongoing. For example, if a person’s life becomes disrupted for more than a few weeks, or starts considering self-harm, it’s time to tell someone and seek help.
Prioritize your health — seeking assistance is the first step in addressing and treating mental health illnesses and perhaps saving one’s life.
1 Mayo Clinic: Mental Illness (accessed April 2023): mayoclinic.org.
2 U.S Department of Health and Human Services: Employers and Health Information in the Workplace (accessed April 2023): hhs.gov.