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Myths and Facts

Myth #1: A person who has been mentally disabled can never be “normal”.

FACT: Mental health difficulties are often temporary in nature. Often the dramatization of normal reactions to stress and trauma as “abnormal” is both unfair and unrealistic. People are affected and define themselves by what others think and when the “experts” provide significant labels, it adds to the problem, not the solution.

Myth #2: If people with other handicaps can cope on their own, people recovering from mental disabilities should be able to do so, too.

FACT: Most people who have been through a disabling incident need help, or rehabilitation, to return to normal functioning. Physical therapy often fills this role after a physical illness. Similarly, following a mental disability, social rehabilitation is usually needed.

Myth #3: Mentally disabled people are dangerous.

FACT: People who have come through a serious emotional and mental trauma and have returned to the community are apt, if anything, to be anxious, timid, and passive. They rarely present a danger to the public. The image of the former mental patient as a homicidal maniac is more the result of media propaganda and the fact that whenever a bizarre and appalling violent act takes place we identify it as “crazy.” Factually, Charles Manson and other famous “killers” are sane. While this may say something about the way we identify insanity, it should indicate that violence is not an act of people with mental disorders, but is instead an act of violent people.

Myth #4: A recovered person is bound to make a second-rate employee.

FACT: Many people recovering from mental disorders make excellent employees. In fact, employers frequently report that such people out perform other workers in such areas as attendance and punctuality and are about equal in motivation, quality of work, and job tenure.

Myth #5: A recovered person may be able to work successfully at low-level jobs but they aren’t suited for really important or responsible positions.

FACT: Recovered people are individuals. As such, their career potentials depend on their particular talents, abilities, and experiences, as well as motivation. A number of political leaders, artists, and others have achieved greatness despite a mental illness.

Myth #6: There is nothing I can do to help.

FACT: The way we act toward people can make all the difference in their lives. When well functioning, hard working people with mental health problems are refused employment, housing, or other opportunities because of false beliefs or stereotypes, we contribute to the problem, not the solution. We shape our own self esteem by the people around us. If you give us responsibility, we will feel responsible. People with mental disorders are first and foremost people. They have the same needs and responses as everyone else. You can help by stopping false impressions and spreading the good word.


Fact: About 1 in 5 adults, ages 18+, has a diagnosable mental disorder. [National Institute of Mental Health]
Fact: Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. [U.S. Surgeon General’s Report]
Fact: Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, income, race, religion, or culture. Mental illnesses affect both males and females. [National Alliance on Mental Illness]
Fact: Mental illnesses often appear for the first time during adolescence and young adulthood. While they can occur at any age, the young and old are especially vulnerable. [National Alliance on Mental Illness]
Fact: Four of the 10 leading causes of disability (lost years of productive life) in the United States and other developed countries are mental disorders, which include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many persons suffer from more than one mental disorder at any given time. [National Institute of Mental Health]
Fact: With proper care and treatment, between 70% and 90% of persons with mental illnesses experience a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life. [National Alliance on Mental Illness]
Fact: More than two-thirds of Americans who have a mental illness live in the community and lead productive lives. [National Mental Health Association]



While a single symptom or isolated event is not necessarily a sign of mental illness, professional help should be sought if symptoms persist, worsen, recur.

One in four families will have a member who suffers from a mental illness/brain disorder. One out of 10 Americans will develop a mental illness in their lifetime.

Mental illness/brain disorders are medical illnesses that require medical tratment and they are no one’s fault.



Abraham Lincoln battled with depression for many years.

Despite his illness, he went on to become president of the United States.

However, he was not the only US President known to have had a mental illness.

In fact, a study completed by Duke University in 2006 found that roughly 49% of past United States Presidents suffered from a mental illness.

“According to the study, published in January in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, of the 37 presidents researched, 18 were found to suffer a mental illness of some form.”

[A quote taken from the story by Haley Hoffman, The Chronicle (Duke)]

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