Back to articles

Busting mental health myths

Your Care, Women's Health, Men's Health, KARLA

Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. will experience a diagnosable mental health illness during their lifetime. “Because misperceptions and stigma about mental disorders still abound, many people who struggle with depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, etc. don’t get the help they need,” says Dr. Pritham Raj, medical director of Adventist Health Portland’s Emotional Wellness Center.

Here's a look at six mental health myths that need debunking:

Myth: Mental health problems are a sign of weakness.

Reality: They're never the fault of someone who has one. Mental health problems are a treatable medical disorder, not a character flaw. Many factors play a role in how and why someone develops a mental health illness, including brain chemistry, genes that may run in families, and stressful or traumatic events.

Myth: Children never experience a mental health problem.

Reality: In half of people with a mental health illness, the first warning signs appear before age 14. And even very young children can show signs of mental distress.

Myth: Therapy is a waste of time.

Reality: Research shows that therapy, which is typically short-term, is very effective at helping people recover from a mental illness. “Psychotherapy is an important part of a multi-faceted approach to mental health treatment,” says Dr. Raj. “Depending on the severity of illness, therapy often works best when combined with medication and regular physical activity such as walking.” When those are part of a treatment plan, up to 90 percent of all people see an improvement in their symptoms.

Myth: People who are mentally ill are violent.

Reality: The vast majority of people with a mental health problem are not violent. In fact, only between 3 and 5 percent of violent acts are attributable to people with a severe mental illness. Chances are you know someone with a mental health illness but don't realize it. That's because mental illness is often a hidden disease — many people who struggle with it remain highly productive members of society.

Myth: There's not much you can do for people with mental health problems.

Reality: You can make a big difference in someone's life. Only 44 percent of adults and less than 20 percent of children with mental health problems get the treatment they need. So if someone you know is struggling mentally, reach out. “When someone has the flu, we offer to bring them soup. When someone has a broken leg, we get them to the emergency room. When someone has symptoms of mental illness, we need to let them know we are here to listen and help them find the mental health services they need,” says Dr. Raj.

Integrated mental health care

Your mental and emotional wellness is just as important as your physical health. When you come to Adventist Health Portland, you get an integrated team offering comprehensive health care that treats your mind, body and spirit. That’s why we offer individual counseling in many of our primary care clinics, as well as in our sleep clinic.

To schedule an initial appointment, call 503-261-6929. Our team will match you with the clinic location and counselor that works best for you.