world mental health day
The stigma surrounding mental illness still prevails and these negative stereotypes can create a lot of misconceptions and isolate people who have serious mental health problems. MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Oct. 10 marks World Mental Health day. According to the World Health Organization, the objective of observing the day is to raise awareness about mental health issues and mobilize efforts in helping people suffering from these problems. An estimated one in five people in the U.S., or 43.8 million people, have mental health problems in a given year.

The stigma surrounding mental illness still prevails and these negative stereotypes can create a lot of misconceptions and isolate people who have serious mental health problems. Research indicates these stereotypes can pose a “significant barrier to care for many individuals with mental illness.

Here are some myths about mental illness you should unlearn.

1. It’s all in your head

Many people still believe that people who are depressed need to just snap out of it or people with anxiety just need to calm down. Depression and anxiety are serious mental illnesses that manifest in dangerous symptoms, including loss of appetite, indigestion, headaches, etc. People suffering from anxiety can also experience a weakened immune system and cardiovascular issues.

2. People with mental illnesses are often violent

Most people with mental illnesses are not violent. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only 3 to 5 percent of violent acts are committed by people who are suffering from a serious mental health problem. People with mental health issues are more than 10 times likely to be victims of a violent crime.

3. People with mental health issues are poor employees

Quite the contrary, people with mental illnesses may in fact be superior to their co-workers who don’t suffer from such illnesses. According to the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, employers said that people with mental illnesses had better attendance and punctuality and their work quality was good or in some cases better than others. Research indicates that there is no difference in productivity between employees with and without mental health issues.

4. You can get better on your own if you just stick to a positive attitude

Most people try to solve their problems themselves but realize that they need outside help. Some disorders have a biological component that needs treatment from a healthcare professional. These professionals have years of experience and special training and education which help in treating these complex illnesses. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), research shows that therapy is effective and helpful.

5. Mental illness is a sign of weakness

Mental health issues are not a sign of weakness. They are health conditions just like heart disease or diabetes and are associated with distress or impaired functioning. One doesn’t choose to have a mental illness just as one doesn’t choose to have any other medical condition. Biological factors, life experience and family history play important roles in developing a mental health issue.

6. Psychologists are paid to just listen to you vent

The APA describes psychotherapy as an “interactive, collaborative process based on dialogue and the patient's active engagement in joint problem-solving.” While the psychologist begins the process of therapy by asking the patient to describe the problem in his/her words, the professional also delves into the patient’s background looking into family history of mental illness and the person’s life experiences.

7. I can’t help people with mental health issues

A good support system is essential for the patient’s well-being and helps him/her get better faster. Family and friends make a big difference. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 44 percent of adults and less than 20 percent of children and teenagers diagnosed with some mental illness receive the treatment they need. Letting the person know someone is there to help them, improving their access to a healthcare professional, treating them with respect and not labeling them “crazy” can help the person to deal with the problem.