Why People Fear Mental Illness

By: ICHA Community Nurse Coordinator, Namarig Ahmed

Mental Health Awareness week is October 5-10, 2014

Unfortunately, there is one main culprit that is the reason for fearing mental illness. Fear of mental illness is not related to those experiencing mental illness themselves. The fear is related to those who do not have any experience or education about mental illness. It is common to fear the unknown and in this case, mental illness is the unknown and results in this fear.
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, we have taken 5 common myths from Canadian Mental Health Association and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to discuss.

Myth 1:  Everyone who has a mental illness is violent and dangerous
This is not true. Anyone can be diagnosed with mental illness. And anyone can be violent, with or without mental illness. Also, those with mental illnesses are commonly targets of violent acts.

Myth 2:   Mental Illnesses will never affect me
All of us will be affected by mental illness in some way or form.  You may also know a friend, family, colleague or neighbour who is experiencing some mental health challenges.

Myth 3: People with mental illness are not smart and/or educated
There are many educated, professional and employed individuals who have a mental illness. ICHA physicians have a number of intelligent and/or well educated clients who have been diagnosed with mental illness. Having a mental illness does not mean the individual is unintelligent or unable to engage in meaningful interactions.

Myth 4: People with mental illness cannot work
This is not true. As explained briefly in myth number 3, there are a number of individuals with diagnosed mental illness who work. Having a mental illness does not mean you cannot work, just as not having mental illness does not mean you can. There are certainly challenges to finding a healthy work environment for those experiencing mental illness that can make it challenging to find meaningful work.

Myth 5:  People don’t recover from mental illness
Treatment for mental illness has come a long way. There are services, treatments and supports for those experiencing mental illness. People with mental illnesses are able to be active members of society once they receive the appropriate treatment and supports.

References and More Information
Canadian Mental Health Association, Myths about Mental Illness
http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/myths-about-mental-illness/#.VDRB4ONdVCA
Canadian Mental Health Association, Understanding Mental Illness
http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Mental Health and Addictions information from A-Z