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Mental Health Myths Stymie Treatment

Many avoid seeking help based on fear of stigma, experts say

FRIDAY, May 25, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- For some of the more than 54 million Americans who suffer a mental illness in any given year, the stigma of their condition may prevent them from seeking treatment, U.S. experts say.

As part of Mental Health Month in May, a team at the Menninger Clinic in Houston reviewed the top five myths about mental illness:

  • Myth #1. People with mental illness are weak. In fact, many famous and powerful people have struggled with depression and other forms of mental illness. Making the decision to seek help for mental illness, and participating in treatment, takes strength in itself.
  • Myth #2. Medications cure mental illness. While medicines can help manage symptoms, they're only part of the treatment process, which also includes therapy to help patients better understand the factors that contribute to their mental illness.
  • Myth #3. People with mental illness could "snap out of it" if they really wanted to. That's no different than telling someone with the flu, diabetes, hypertension or other physical illness or problem to "snap out of it."
  • Myth #4. Children don't have mental illness. In fact, 10 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders that have a major impact on their day-to-day lives, according to a 1999 U.S. Surgeon General report.
  • Myth #5. People with mental illness don't get well. The truth is that a combination of medication and psychological treatments and support reduces symptoms and improves quality of life in between 70 percent and 90 percent of people with mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

More information

The U.S. Surgeon General offers an overview of mental illness.

SOURCE: Menninger Clinic, news release, May 2007
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