Myth/Stereotype    The Facts
   Violent This common stereotype is vastly exaggerated by the media. In fact, although some mental disorders (anti-social personality disorder and the acute stage of some psychotic disorders) do have aggression and violence as possible symptoms, recent research has shown that using alcohol and drugs is a much more reliable predictor of violent behavior than is mental disorder. It is only when a mentally ill person abuses alcohol and illegal drugs that they are somewhat more likely than a non-mentally ill person to be violent. By any measure, however, the vast majority of violent acts are committed by people without mental disorder.
   Comical The media sometimes depict the experience of mental illness as being comical. This is disrespectful of the agony of those in these circumstances, and can be harmful to them.
   Not curable, or poor outcome As many as 80 percent of people suffering from mental illnesses can effectively return to normal, productive lives if they receive appropriate treatment. Many others can have their suffering significantly reduced.
   Morally deficient; God’s judgment for sinful behavior This was the prevailing thought before the 18th century when the need for humane care became widely recognized. It has no place in today’s world.
   Fear that it is ‘catching’ You do not develop a mental disorder by being around someone with one.
   Mentally ill people are unreliable and unpredictable For some disorders this may be true when a person is in a crisis, but is not generally true otherwise, and it is not true for all disorders.
   Some people “don’t believe in” mental disorders or psychotherapy The facts that these disorders respond to clinical treatment and that they can be devastating to a person’s life belie the belief that they are feigned.
   Spiritual experiences of mentally ill are not true religious experiences Many people with and without mental disorders have mystical experiences. The true meaning of the experience depends on the meaning felt by the person having the experience.
   You cannot communicate with people with mental disorders Although symptoms of some mental disorders involve disturbances in communication, most people with mental disorders, even those in acute psychiatric stress, can communicate with others and tell at least some of what is happening with them.
   Mental illness is evidence of character flaws, and you are weak if you need to seek help Tragically, this baseless stereotype keeps many people from getting the help they need, and that is readily available.
   Mental illness is a result of poor parenting Mental illness is caused by a variety of inherited and environmental factors. Abusive parenting can contribute to mental disorders. But, good parenting may not be able to shield a child from mental illness, since many causative factors are not in the power of a parent to affect.
   People with mental disorders have nothing to contribute to society This is patently untrue. Many of the most creative artists, poets and writers have lived with some sort of mental disorder. Since 20% of the population will develop a mental disorder every year, clearly there are millions of people with mental disorders who contribute to society.
   People with mental disorders have bizarre, disruptive behavior While it is true that some mental disorders involve disruptive behavior, most disorders do not. If guidelines on appropriate behavior are in place, disruption from any person with or without a mental disorder can be limited.