Mental illness affects one in five Canadians… seven million of our friends, neighbours, colleagues and loved ones will need help for mental health problems this year. Many will not get it because of the stigma attached to the illness or because the resources simply aren’t there to provide help.
Mental illnesses can take many forms, just as physical illnesses do. Mental illnesses are still feared and misunderstood by many people. If you, or someone you know, has a mental illness, there is good news: all mental illnesses can be treated.
Mental illness is common. Studies indicate that in any given year, one in every five Canadian adults under age 65 will have a mental health problem. Mental illnesses account for a large percentage of hospital stays every year. Yet, in spite of the fact that every Canadian knows someone who has been, or will be, affected by mental illness, few people know very much about it.
It is human nature to fear what we don’t understand. Mental illness is feared by many people and, unfortunately, still carries a stigma. Because of this stigma, many people hesitate to get help for a mental health concern. It is unfortunate that this happens because effective treatment exists for almost all mental illnesses.
The myths of mental illness
There are many myths about mental illness. Until people learn the truth, they will continue to deny that mental illness exists at all or to avoid the topic entirely.
How much do you know about mental illness? Here are some of the common myths — and truths.
- People with mental illness are violent and dangerous. The truth is that, as a group, mentally ill people are no more violent than any other group. In fact, they are far more likely to be the victims of violence than to be violent themselves.
- People with mental illness are poor and/or less intelligent. Many studies show that most mentally ill people have average or above-average intelligence. Mental illness, like physical illness, can affect anyone regardless of intelligence, social class or income level.
- Mental illness is caused by a personal weakness. A mental illness is not a character flaw. It is an illness, and it has nothing to do with being weak or lacking will-power. Although people with mental illness can play a big part in their own recovery, they did not choose to become ill, and they are not lazy because they cannot just “snap out of it.”
- Mental illness is a single, rare disorder. Mental illness is not a single disease but a broad classification for many disorders. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, eating disorders and organic brain disorders can cause misery, tears and missed opportunities for thousands of Canadians.
If you or someone you know develops the symptoms of a mental illness, it is important to get it diagnosed and to start treatment as soon as possible. WCWG offered a free screening for mental health online. A follow-up consultation with the Clinical Director can be scheduled to discuss any mental health concerns.