Mental Health: Facts & Statistics
Mental Illness Myths & Facts
Myth: Mental illness is not a disease and cannot be treated.
Fact: Research in the last decade proves that mental illnesses are diagnosable disorders of the brain. New brain imaging technologies visually illustrate the differences in the brains of healthy people and people with serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia. They show reductions in the overall volume of the brain and distinct differences in the way in which the brain processes information. There are also now effective treatments for mental illness that, for example, relieve symptoms for 80 percent of people with major depression; control symptoms such as hallucination or delusions for 70 percent of people with schizophrenia; and alleviate symptoms for 50 to 60 percent of people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Myth: There's no hope for people with mental illnesses.
Fact: These illnesses, which will affect one in five Americans, can be extremely debilitating. However, research proves that mental illnesses are diagnosable and treatable disorders of the brain. Eighty percent of people treated for severe depression and 70 percent or people treated for schizophrenia show positive responses to treatment-far higher rates than for many physical illnesses. The challenge is to ensure that Americans with mental illness recognize these disorders and get the help that they need. There are more treatments, strategies, and community supports than ever before, and even more are on the horizon.
Myth: I can't do anything for someone with mental health needs.
Fact: You can do a lot, starting with the way you act and how you speak. You can nurture an environment that builds on people's strengths and promotes good mental health. For example:
Myth: People with mental illnesses are violent and unpredictable.
Fact: In reality, the vast majority of people who have mental health needs are no more violent than anyone else. You probably know someone with a mental illness and don't even realize it.
Myth: Mental illness doesn't happen to people like me or my family.
Fact: Mental illness affects most extended American families. One in five Americans suffer from mental illness at some point in their life. These illnesses strike all kinds of families, regardless of race, socioeconomic class, educational level or place of residence. Schizophrenia occurs at equal rates regardless of education, socioeconomic status, or culture. Depression, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorders are also equal opportunity illnesses. Women suffer from depression at twice the rate of men regardless of where they live, their culture, or socioeconomic status. Five million older Americans suffer from depression, and one in ten children and adolescents suffer from some type of mental illness. Mental illness can happen to anyone.
Myth: Mental illness is the same as mental retardation.
Fact: The two are distinct disorders. A mental retardation diagnosis is characterized by limitations in intellectual functioning and difficulties with certain daily living skills. In contrast, people with mental illnesses-health conditions that cause changes in a person's thinking, mood, and behavior-have varied intellectual functioning, just like the general population.
Myth: Mental illnesses are brought on by a weakness of character.
Fact: Mental illnesses are a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors. Research has shown genetic and biological factors are associated with schizophrenia, depression, and alcoholism. Social influences, such as loss of a loved one or a job, can also contribute to the development of various disorders.
Myth: People with mental illnesses cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.
Fact: In essence, all jobs are stressful to some extent. Productivity is maximized when there is a good match between the employee's needs and working conditions, whether or not the individual has mental health needs.
Myth: People with mental health needs, even those who have received effective treatment and have recovered, tend to be second-rate workers on the job.
Fact: Employers who have hired people with mental illnesses report good attendance and punctuality, as well as motivation, quality of work, and job tenure on par with or greater than other employees. Studies by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) show that there are no differences in productivity when people with mental illnesses are compared to other employees.
Myth: Once people develop mental illnesses, they will never recover.
Fact: People with psychiatric disabilities face many barriers, but appropriate support services can help them to succeed. A 1995 study of the Employment Intervention Demonstration Program run by the Center for Mental Health Services assessed the effectiveness of employment strategies to assist individuals with severe mental illness get and keep employment. It found that 55 percent of individuals receiving such employment support services were working after two years. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities. For some individuals, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life. For others, recovery implies the reduction or complete remission of symptoms. Science has shown that having hope plays an integral role in an individual's recovery.
Myth: Homeless people suffering from mental illness have little chance of recovery.
Fact: There are effective treatments for homeless people with mental illness. While one-third of homeless Americans suffer from an untreated mental illness, research demonstrates a decrease in homelessness when outreach to these individuals is coupled with case management that provides them with appropriate medical treatment and connects them to housing and other supportive services. One study reported a 45 percent reduction in the number of days of homelessness after three months of this type of treatment. Over a year, clients had a 70 percent increase in the number of days worked, demonstrating that homeless persons with mental illnesses can make substantial improvements in the overall quality of their lives.
Myth: Therapy and self-help are wastes of time. Why bother when you can just take one of those pills you hear about on TV?
Fact: Treatment varies depending on the individual. A lot of people work with therapists, counselors, their peers, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers in their recovery process. They also use self-help strategies and community supports. Often these methods are combined with some of the most advanced medications available.
Myth: Children do not experience mental illnesses. Their actions are just products of bad parenting.
Fact: A report from the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health showed that in any given year 5-9 percent of children experience serious emotional disturbances. Just like adult mental illnesses, these are clinically diagnosable health conditions that are a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, social, and sometimes even genetic factors.
Myth: Children misbehave or fail in school just to get attention.
Fact: Behavior problems can be symptoms of emotional, behavioral, or mental disorders, rather than merely attention-seeking devices. These children can succeed in school with appropriate understanding, attention, and mental health services.
Myth: We cannot afford to treat mental disorders.
Fact: We cannot afford NOT to treat mental illness. Researchers estimate that mental illnesses, including indirect costs such as days lost from work, cost America tens of billions of dollars each year. At the same time, businesses and states that have implemented new strategies to treat these disorders have not found notable increases in costs. For example, one business, Bank One, spearheaded a comprehensive effort to improve the company's ability to identify and get appropriate treatment for employees with depression in a timely manner. Between 1991 and 1995, the direct treatment costs for depressive disorders decreased by 60 percent. Moreover, Ohio implemented full mental health parity for its state employees and did not find that this action increased costs at all.
Myths & Facts:
Specific Mental Illnesses: