The stigma associated with mental illness has existed as long as the disorders themselves, and although efforts are being made to educate people and reduce the stigma, it sadly persists. A lack of education and the perpetuation of various myths have caused people to treat mental illness differently from other types of health problems.
Uneducated people still use the word “crazy” to describe people with diseases such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. These people are not crazy; they are ill. A person with a broken leg usually evokes plenty of sympathy, but a person admitting to bipolar disorder is more likely to cause others to take a mental step away from them. To combat this reaction, let’s take a look at two of the more common myths associated with mental illness:
Myth #1: People with a mental illness are dangerous and violent
People with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia sometimes display symptoms that are easily misinterpreted by others. Patients may talk in a manner that doesn’t make any sense, which can be unnerving for those around them. If hallucinations are present, either visual or auditory, those images and sounds are as real to the person experiencing them as if they were actually happening. Since other people cannot hear or see anything, they may interpret a person’s behavior as dangerous and perhaps imagine they must be prone to violence.
The American Psychological Association reports that in a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness. Researchers studied crimes committed by offenders with various mental disorders and found that only 3 percent of their crimes were directly related to symptoms of major depression, 4 percent to schizophrenia symptoms and 10 percent to bipolar disorder.
Lead researcher Jillian Peterson, PhD, said “When we hear about crimes committed by people with mental illness, they tend to be big headline-making crimes so they get stuck in people’s heads. The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous.”
Myth #2: When people have mental illness, they will never get better
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness one out of four American families has a relative with a mental illness. These disorders are treatable. The majority of patients need medication to manage symptoms and also rely on therapeutic counseling, self-help groups, vocational rehabilitation and other community services to reach their highest level of recovery.
The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports. Early diagnosis and treatment is important; early treatment accelerates recovery, and the brain is protected from further harm.
Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. By dispelling these myths, we can eliminate the stigma and help get those in need get treatment.
Sovereign Health treats people with mental illness. Our expert clinicians provide compassionate treatment that includes medication and therapy designed to help our patients return to a normal, healthy life. Call our 24/7 helpline at (866) 819-0427 to learn more.
Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer.