Misconceptions About Mental Illnesses
are many myths and misconceptions about mental health mainly because of
persisting ignorance about mental illnesses and their symptoms. Just as lack of
understanding of their illness can be traumatizing and disabling for patients,
ignorance of the illness and of the symptoms can also traumatize those around
is often wrongly believed that people with mental health problems are violent
FACT: From newspaper
reports there would seem to be a much greater incidence of aggressive behaviour
in general hospitals and health centres involving patients and health personnel.
Studies in other countries have shown that statistically mental health sufferers
are slightly less likely to commit a violent crime than members of the general
public. In fact there is evidence that people suffering from a mental health
problem are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence.
Sufferers of both sexes are frequently physically and verbally abused and are
even sometimes victims of sexual aggression.
is often wrongly believed that people with mental health problems are lazy and
FACT: For a long time not much was known about the lives and sufferings of famous people who have at some point in their lives had mental health problems. But as there is greater awareness of mental health issues, more and more people are going public about their mental health problems. There is the famous case of John Nash the genius mathematician who won a Nobel Prize and who was for a large part of his life paralyzed by severe paranoid schizophrenia. A very successful film of his life has been made entitled ‘Beautiful Mind’.
are numerous other cases of persons who have made invaluable contributions in
the fields of politics ( eg Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln), arts (Van Gogh,
Camille Claudel, John Keats, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf), academia (John Nash), business
(Howard Hughes, billionaire ; the film ‘The Aviator’ talks of his
are also many many others who are not as well known but who have had very
fruitful lives and made valuable contributions for their families and their
cases also explode the myth that people with mental health problems lack
intelligence or are stupid.
common and dangerous misconception is that mental health sufferers cannot
unfortunate thing is that people often avoid treatment mostly because they do
not want to be stigmatized as being mentally ill. Therefore a change of attitude
of the general public towards mental health is just as important as medical
People do not
choose to have mental health problems.
health problems are not due to character flaws or lack of willpower.
research in this field is yielding
more and more evidence
of the biochemical
and genetic causes of the more severe mental
illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Many countries now encourage persons with mental health problems to integrate into the community after treatment and hospitalization because it has been realized that people with mental health problems are capable of full community participation. Successful integration however depends on regular medication, follow up and most importantly on their acceptance by society.
Rejection by the community is often the main hindrance.
a supportive community, people with mental health problems can participate fully
at their respective potential levels of functioning.
is often wrongly believed that mental health sufferers are not ‘normal’
This is very far from the truth. They are ordinary people with the same dreams,
aspirations and ambitions as other people. They want to integrate into the
community like other people. They however have special needs and sometimes have
to re-orient their dreams and aspirations to accommodate their health requirements.
They need more support than other people who do not have such health problems.
have special needs like the physically impaired .
supportive community can create the environment and make the necessary
arrangements to accommodate such needs in the same way as they
accommodate those of persons with physical disabilities.