Mental Health Awareness May Be More Mainstream, But Stubborn Myths Persist

Despite misconceptions, mental-health conditions affect people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, and many recover.

By Joy DiazJanuary 2, 2019 11:19 am

Recently, and for the first time in NFL history, a team has hired an in-house therapist. And since November, Dallas-area residents have been able to see a mental health professional in a Walmart store. All this may signal a possible shift in how Americans view mental health. But Karen Ranus, executive director for the Austin chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, says there are still common misconceptions about mental health.

Myth 1: Mental health conditions aren’t common:

The truth is, one in five Americans, this year, will be impacted by mental health conditions. So the truth is, every single one of us knows someone, cares about someone, lives with someone who’s impacted by mental health each and every day.

Myth 2: Mental-health issues are caused by character flaws or personal weaknesses:

Just like heart disease, diabetes, asthma … mental health is a health issue. The brain is a really complex organ; there’s still a lot we don’t know about it, but we do know that genetics and environmental stressors play a big part in mental health, and that these are real health issues and that people aren’t to blame.

Myth 3: People don’t recover from mental health conditions:

The treatment success rates for mental-health issues are just as good as they are for any other health issues. When people have access to the right kinds of treatment, medication, therapy, exercise, good eating and most importantly a great support system, not only do they get better, they can definitely get better. … Treatment does work and the recovery is possible.

Myth 4: Mental health issues only impact adults:

Lifetime mental health issues usually show their signs by age 14, and we often know that the gap between the onset of symptoms and actual diagnosis and treatment is sometimes eight to 10 years. So it’s really important for us to recognize that the earlier that kids get help, the much better their outcomes.

Myth 5: Mental health issues aren’t life-threatening:

In 90 percent of cases, when we see a suicide, we’re seeing an untreated, undiagnosed or undertreated mental health issue. And we know that suicides are on the rise – that we’ve seen a 30 percent increase in the number of suicides, and that it’s impacting people from all stages of life, from all socioeconomic backgrounds. And we also know that suicide is preventable. But one of the things that we have to do is talk about mental health in a really proactive and positive way so we can catch these things really early.