Just like a person can suffer from a physical illness– such as a diabetes or heart disease– they can also suffer from mental illnesses or disorders. Mental illnesses are conditions that “disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning” (NAMI). These disorders can be serious, and especially devastating to the lives of sufferers, leaving them to feel vulnerable and alone. Mental illness is an often misunderstood topic, and many don’t know where to begin. There are several misconceptions about mental illnesses:
1. Mental illnesses are rare and can only happen to certain types of people.
Mental illnesses are actually quite common– it is estimated that 1 in 4 adults will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year (NIMH). Mental illnesses also don’t discriminate, and can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, class, or age.

2. People with mental illnesses are “crazy”.
This belief is one of the biggest reasons why people who suffer from mental illnesses are afraid to seek help. Labeling them as “crazy” makes it difficult for them to feel as if they are safe to get treatment for fear of it negatively impacting their lives, relationships, or how people view them. Just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses often have biological causes that are out of the person’s control, which can be affected by a number of environmental, genetic, and psychological factors.

3. People with mental illnesses are overreacting, and can just snap out of it.
Mental illnesses are incredibly difficult to deal with and can be emotionally draining for everyone involved. If a person believes they have a mental illness, they should be taken seriously, and the appropriate health professionals should be contacted.

4. People with mental illnesses are dangerous and should be avoided.
There is no evidence suggesting that people with mental illnesses are inherently more dangerous or violent than those without mental illnesses. In fact, people who suffer from mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violence due to fear stemming from misunderstandings about mental illness (NIMH). People with mental illnesses are capable of living long, healthy, fulfilling lives and being productive members of society.

5. Medication is a simple solution to mental illness.
Treatment is often complex, and there is no one size fits all approach. Medications focus on treating the symptoms but don’t necessarily fix other issues surrounding a disorder. Many times, doctors will recommend a combination of approaches including medication, therapy, support groups, and certain lifestyle changes to maximize treatment benefits.
One of the most important things to remember is that people who suffer from any kind of mental illness should not be stigmatized– understanding and compassion are necessary for these individuals to live successful and rewarding lives.

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What is Mental Illness was originally published on NoStigmas.org | Redefining Mental Health

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