Students in desks during lecture; one student is speaking.

Myths and Misconceptions

Myth #1: Mental illnesses aren’t real illnesses.

Fact: Mental illnesses create distress, typically don’t go away on their own and are real health issues with effective treatments. When someone breaks their arm, we wouldn’t expect them to just “get over it”.

Myth #2: Mental illness will never affect me.

Fact: All of us will be affected by mental illness. Researchers estimate 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. You may personally not experience mental illness, but it is very likely that someone close to you will.

Myth #3: People with mental illness are violent and dangerous.

Fact: Research states that mental illnesses are not a good predictor of violence. People that experience mental illness are no more violent than people who don’t experience mental illness. It is also important to know that people who experience mental illness are often likely to be survivors of violence than being violent themselves.

Myth #4: People who experience mental illness can’t work or be in school.

Fact: Whether you realize it or not, workplaces and post secondary institutions are filled with people who have experienced mental illness. Mental illness does not mean that someone is not capable of working or going to school. Most people with serious mental illness want to work or be in school; however, they face systemic barriers to finding and keeping meaningful work or academic support in a school setting.

Myth #5: People who self-harm (ie. cutting) are attention seeking.

Fact: Individuals who self-harm are seeking support, but maybe don’t know how to ask or talk about self-harm. It may be hard to understand the motives behind self-injury, however it is important to know that just because someone is injuring themselves, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to end their life. Typically, people self-harm to distract themselves, regain control of their mind, release tension associated with strong emotions, and feel something physical when they feel numb or express themselves when they feel strong emotions.

Myth #6 : No such thing as a mental health continuum. You either have mental health or you don’t.

Fact: Mental health and mental illness are not simply on opposite ends of the spectrum. People diagnosed with mental illness can still have high levels of general mental health, while those without a diagnosed mental illness can show low levels of mental well-being. Mental health is best understood as a matrix where people can move among states of well-being regardless of mental illness. The fact of the matter is we all have mental health.