Mental health myths and facts

Myth: Mental health problems are rare.
Reality: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any one year.

Myth: People with mental illness aren’t able to work.
Reality: It is likely that we all know someone experiencing a mental health problem.

Myth: Children and young people’s changes in moods are a part of growing up, nothing to worry about.
Reality: 1 in 10 young people will go through problems with their mental health.

Myth: People with mental health problems don’t experience discrimination
Reality: 9 out of 10 with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.

Myth: It’s easy for people to talk to friends about their feelings.
Reality: Many people worry about how friends or family will respond if they talk about their mental health difficulties. They also worry about what will happen if they open up.

Myth: People with mental health illnesses are usually unpredictable and likely to be perpetrators of violent acts..
Reality: People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence and are usually more dangerous to themselves than to others: 9 out of 10 suicides in the UK are due to mental distress. In 2009, out of a population of around 43 million, it is estmated that over 7 million will have a significant mental health problem. Around 50-70 homicides a year are committed by people with mental health problems (around 0.0000016% of the total population and around 0.000007% of those with a significant mental health problem)!!

Reality: The majority of violent crimes and murders are committed by people who don’t have mental health problems. In 2009-10, a total of 704 homicides were recorded in England and Wales alone, which bears out the reality that the risk of someone with a mental health problem committing a murder is a small proportion of the total risk.

In 2013, media reported that 1200 people had been killed by someone with mental health problems in a decade. In fact, this figure included people who had been assessed as not having mental health issues. The true figure was 738, around 10% of the total homicide figure for 2001-2010, highlighting media distortion of the truth. In TV drama also, mental ill-health can be distorted in the interests of storylines. Research showed that, in a 3-month period, programmes with mental health story lines overstated violence and self-harm. Although around 50% showed sympathetic characters, they were often shown as sad victims, with terms such as “crackpot”, “psycho”, “basket case” , “looney tunes” being used.

Next time, we’ll be starting to think about strategies for supporting someone who has a mental health problem…

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