Eight Myths and Facts of Mental Disorders  ( from Ancoura


Myth 1: Mental disorders are rare

Fact: Mental disorders are not rare and affect nearly every Canadian either directly or indirectly. Approximately 1 in 5 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 report a mental disorder, substance abuse or learning disability. Between 15 and 20 percent of the Canadian adolescent population suffers from a mental disorder at one time or another.

Myth 2: People with mental illness are unable to lead productive lives

Fact: Mental illness is a disease, not a life sentence. Most people with a mental disorder respond well to treatment. Most people with a mental disorder learn to cope with mental health problems and go on to lead very productive and fulfilling lives. While some illnesses can be debilitating, most are treatable. Many prominent members of society, including artists, musicians, and scholars have had a mental illness. Some examples include:

Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch Painter)

Alanis Morrisette (Canadian Singer/Songwriter)

Jim Carrey (Canadian Comedian/Actor)

Margaret Trudeau (Wife of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau)

Isaac Newton (English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, theologian, natural philosopher, and alchemist)

Albert Einstein (German physicist)

Ludwig van Beethoven (German composer and pianist)

Edgar Allan Poe (American poet and writer)

Winston Churchill (British politician),

Charles Darwin (English naturalist)

Charles Dickens (English novelist) (depression)

Shakespeare (English playwright)

Dorothy Hamill (American figure skating athlete)

Myth 3: People who are mentally ill will not get better

Fact: Once diagnosed, mental illness is treatable. While it is not usually “cured”, it can be effectively managed. Most people with mental disorders live productive and positive lives while receiving treatments for their mental illness. As is the case with any illness, individuals with severe or persistent mental disorders that respond poorly to available treatments may require more support and may not function as highly as others.

Myth 4: People with mental disorders are usually violent

Fact: While some people who suffer from mental illness do commit antisocial acts, mental illness does not equal criminality or violence – despite the media’s tendency to emphasize a suspected link (e.g. psychotic serial killers). In fact, people with mental illness are no more likely to commit violence than the general public, but they are 2.5 times more likely to be victimized and are more likely to inflict violent behaviours on themselves. Furthermore, the general public is more likely to be violently victimized by someone who does not have a mental illness rather than by someone who suffers from mental illness.

Some evidence suggests that certain medications might rarely be associated with aggression, but this doesn’t mean there is a link between psychiatric medications and violent behaviour. In fact, the drug that is most often associated with aggressive behaviour is alcohol! Many medications used to treat mental disorders are also helpful in treating violent behaviour. It is important to remember that the best known predictor for future violent behaviour is past violent or criminal behaviour, not mental illness.

Myth 5: Mental disorders are a consequence of bad parenting or personal weakness

Fact: The main risk factors for mental illness are not bad parenting or personal weakness but rather genetics, severe and prolonged stress (such as physical or sexual abuse), or other environmental influences (such as birth trauma or head injury). It is important to remember that mental illness is a disease like any other physical disease and is not a result of personal weakness. We must remove the misconceptions and myths and the stigma that surround mental disorders.

Myth 6: Treatments for mental disorders are not usually effective

Fact: The effectiveness of any treatment depends on a number of factors including the type of mental illness and the particular needs of the individual. Most recent studies suggest that a combination of psychiatric medication and psychotherapy or social interventions are the most effective way to treat mental illnesses. Treatment effectiveness can also be improved if intervention is provided early in the course of the disorder.

Myth 7: Mental disorders are caused by the stresses of everyday life

Fact: It may seem that stress is responsible for mental illness because it is sometimes difficult to untangle whether experiences and symptoms predate or result from the disorder. However, there is no one clear cause of mental illness. Rather, it is a result of complex interactions between psychological, biological, genetic and social factors. Stress, stigma, and lack of support work to exacerbate the impact of these factors on the individual. Stress often causes mental distress, demoralization, emotional upset, frustration, etc. but these understandable and common responses should not be confused with a mental disorder.

Myth 8: Mental illnesses are totally hereditary

Fact: Some mental illnesses include a genetic component, which results in a predisposition or vulnerability toward the illness among children and siblings. While mental disorders often run in families, environment also plays a key role in the development of certain conditions. Therefore just because your mother and your uncle or any other family member may have a mental illness, does not necessarily mean that you will too. Mental illness is a result of complex interactions between psychological, biological, genetic and social factors. What is does mean however, if someone in your family has a mental disorder you will be at higher risk. So, if you start to experience the symptoms of a mental disorder it will be important for you to see a health provider as soon as possible to determine if you have a problem that will require treatment. It’s also a good idea if there is a mental disorder in your family history to do your best to avoid potential environmental triggers such as drugs.


Info in the Myths and Facts section has been provided by Teen Mental Health.