One person dies from suicide every 40 seconds.
Common Myths and Misconceptions
Despite the frequency and prevalence of mental health issues and cases of suicide, there are a lot of misinformation around mental health and suicide. This is why it’s important to break the taboo!
1 – Mental Health Conditions Aren’t Common
Mental illness is more prevalent than many people think: One in five Americans experiences it in their lifetime. One in twenty-five Americans experience a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
2 – Mental Illness is Caused By Bad Parenting
Children can, and do, have mental health conditions. Research shows that one in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will have a mental illness. In fact, 50% of all lifetime cases begin by age 14. While environmental factors can affect a person’s mental health, biological factors can affect individuals just as actively.
3 – People Often Fake Mental Illness
No one would choose to have a mental illness, just as no one would choose to have a physical illness. The causes for mental health conditions are intensively studied and they are real.
4 – Mental Illness is Caused by Weakness
Just like any major illness, mental illness is not the fault of the person who has a mental health condition. It is caused by environmental and biological factors, not a result of personal weakness.
5 – Eating Disorders are a Choice
They are complex medical and psychiatric illnesses that patients don’t choose. They are bio-psycho-social diseases, which means that genetic, biological, environmental, and social elements all play a role.
6 – People aren’t Depressed, They’re Just Sad
Depression is not something a person can will away. People often have the misconception that a person can just “cheer up” or “shake it off.” It is not just “the blues,” but a serious medical condition that affects the biological functioning of our bodies.
7 – Eating Disorders Only Effect Women
Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sex. Although eating disorders are more common in females, researchers and clinicians are becoming aware of a growing number of males and non-binary individuals who are seeking help for eating disorders.
8 – People Who Suffer from Mental Illness Can’t Handle Daily Life
Stressful situations can be difficult for all people, not just those who live with mental illness. People with mental health conditions have jobs, go to school, and are active members of their communities.
9 – People with Mental Health Conditions are Violent and Dangerous
Having a mental health condition does not make a person more likely to be violent or dangerous. The truth is, living with a mental health condition makes you more likely to be a victim of violence, four times the rate of the general public. Studies have shown that 1 in 4 individuals living with a mental health condition will experience some form of violence in any given year.
10 – Psychiatric Disorders are Not Real Medical Issues
Just as with heart disease and diabetes, mental illnesses are a legitimate medical illness. Research shows there are genetic and environmental causes and similar to other medical conditions, they can be treated effectively.
11 – You Can Never Get Better from a Mental Illness
Mental health issues are not always lifelong disorders. For example, some depression and anxiety disorders only require a person to take medication for a short period of time.
12 – If You Start to Feel Better, You’re Cured
For some people, after getting on the proper treatment plan, it can make you feel much better. Many of your symptoms may go away, but this does not mean you’re “cured.” The relief you feel is because of your treatment plan.
13 – People with Mental Illness are “Damaged”
A mental illness does not make someone any less of a person. They are not broken or odd; they just have different experiences that not everyone has to face.
14 – A Person Can Treat Themselves with Positive Thought and Prayer
Positive thought, religion, and spirituality can be a powerful tool in recovery, but it shouldn’t be the only form of treatment. The most effective treatment someone can receive is one that is planned by their licensed health provider and themselves.
15 – You Can’t Help Someone with Mental Illness
Everyone can help those living with mental illness by speaking and acting in a way that preserves personal dignity.
16 – Anxiety Isn’t a Real Illness
Anxiety disorders are an extreme form of anxiety that causes impairments, and it’s a very real illness.
17 – A Panic Attack Can Make You Lose Control or Pass Out
Fainting happens from a drop-in blood pressure, which doesn’t happen during a panic attack. During a panic attack your heart rate and blood pressure increase, which means you won’t pass out.
18 – Some People Just Worry and Can’t Be Treated
Effective treatments and medications can help get anxiety under control.
19 – People With Schizophrenia Have Multiple Personalities
Schizophrenia often involves a variety of symptoms, but not one involves multiple personalities. This myth likely originated because the word “schizo” means split—however, in this case, it refers to gaps (or a splitting) in a person’s ability to think and express emotions.
20 – People With Schizophrenia are Dangerous
Unfortunately, the notion that all individuals with schizophrenia are dangerous contributes heavily to the stigma surrounding the disorder. People with schizophrenia often have reduced housing and employment opportunities, greater stress, lower self-esteem, and diminished quality of life.
21 – Bipolar Disorder is Just Mania
Bipolar disorder includes a wide-range of mood disturbances, from mania and hypomania to depression.
22 – There is Only One Type of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar I – manic episode, Bipolar II – hypomanic and depressive episodes, Cyclothymic Disorder – hypomanic and depressive symptoms, Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – bipolar-like mood disturbance that does not fit the pattern of the other diagnoses.
23 – Bipolar is Very Rare
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year
24 – People with OCD Just Like to Keep Things Clean and Organized
OCD is a serious mental illness marked by high levels of anxiety and emotional distress. People with OCD might have cleanliness rituals, but they don’t enjoy them. They keep things clean and organized because otherwise they will experience crushing anxiety.
25 – People with OCD Just Need to Relax
OCD isn’t a personality quirk — it’s a disease.
1 – Only White Males Die by Suicide
There are demographic factors that contribute to higher risk for suicide. Suicide doesn’t discriminate. Individuals from all genders, races ethnicities, upbringings, etc. commit suicide.
2 – Suicidal Teens Overreact to Life Events
Problems that may not seem like a big deal to one person can cause distress for a suicidal teen.
3 – Suicides Happen Without Warning
Most teens who attempt or die by suicide have communicated their distress or plans to at least one person.
4 – Talking to Teens About Suicide Makes Them Likely to Kill Themselves
Talking to someone about suicide gives them the opportunity to express thoughts and feelings about something they may have been keeping secret.
5 – Anyone Who Tries to Kill Him or Herself is Irrational or Insane
Most people understand the reasons and life circumstances that contribute to their reasons for feeling suicidal.
6 – The Majority of People Who Commit Suicide are Uneducated and Impoverished
In the United States the largest number of suicides are committed by middle-age and older middles age Caucasian males that have the highest level of education.
7 – People Who Talk About Suicide Don’t Usually Do It, They Just Want Attention
As many as 75% of the people who commit suicide do or say something to indicate their state of mind and intentions.
8 – If Someone is Determined to Take His or Her Own Life There is Nothing You or I Can Do About It
Most people who attempt suicide do not want to die, they want their pain to stop, and that can lead to self-destructive and life-threatening acts.
9 – If a Person Attempts Suicide and Survives, They Won’t Ever Make a Further Attempt
A suicide attempt is regarded as an indicator of further attempts.
10 – Suicide is Hereditary
Although suicide can be over-represented in families, it is attempts not genetically inherited.
11 – Suicide is Painless
Many suicide methods are very painful. Fictional portrayals of suicide do not usually include the reality of the pain.
12 – Depression and Self-destructive Behavior Are Rare in Young People
Both forms of behavior are common in adolescents. Depression may manifest itself in ways which are different from its manifestation in adults, but it is prevalent in children and adolescents.
13 – Some People Are Just Always Suicidal-Nobody is Suicidal at All Times
The risk of suicide for any individual varies across time, as circumstances change.
14 – Suicide is Much More Common in Young People from Higher Socioeconomic Status Areas
The causes of suicidal behavior cut across SES boundaries.
15 – Most Suicides Occur in the Winter Month When the Weather is Poor
Suicide can happen at any time of the year.
16 – When Young People are Suicidal They are Insane or Mentally Ill
Although suicidal people are likely to be extremely unhappy and may be classified as having a mood disorder, such as depression, most are not legally insane.
17 – Most Suicidal Young People Never Seek or Ask for Help
Evidence shows that they often tell their school peers of their thoughts and plans. Most suicidal adults visit a medical doctor during the three months prior to killing themselves.
18 – Suicidal Young People Cannot Help Themselves
While contemplating suicide, young people may have a distorted perception of their actual life situation and what solutions are appropriate for them to take. However, with support and constructive assistance from caring and informed people around them, young people can gain full self-direction and self-management in their lives.
19 – Suicidal People are Angry When Someone Intervenes
While it is common for young people to be defensive and resist help at first, these behaviors are often barriers imposed to test how much people care and are prepared to help.
20 – All Suicidal People are Depressed
Depression can play a part in most suicides but it need not to be present for suicide to be attempted or competed.
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