Public Education

Common misconceptions about mental illness

Date: 6 July 2006

Myth: “Young people and children don’t suffer from mental health problems.”

Fact: 13% of children in Malaysia aged between 5 – 15 years old suffer from a mental health disorder that severely disrupts their ability to function at home, in school, or in their community. (Source: National Health and Morbidity Study, 1997)

Myth: “People who need psychiatric care should be locked away in institutions.”

Fact: Today, most people can lead productive lives within their communities thanks to a variety of supports, programs, and/or medications.

Myth: “A person who has had a mental illness can never be normal.”

Fact: People with mental illnesses can, and do, recover to resume normal activities. For example, Kay Redfield Jamieson, who has bipolar disorder, has received treatment and is today Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She has written extensively on mood disorders and manic depressive illnesses.

Myth: “Mentally ill persons are dangerous.”

Fact: The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent. In cases when violence does occur, the incident typically results from the same reasons as with the general public, such as feeling threatened or excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Myth: “People with mental illnesses can work low-level jobs but aren’t suited for really important or responsible positions.”

Fact: People with mental illnesses, like everyone else, have the potential to work at any level depending on their own abilities, experience and motivation.

How You Can Combat Stigma

  • Share your experience with mental illness. Your story can convey to others that having a mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed about.
  • Help people with mental illness re-enter society. Support their efforts to obtain housing and jobs.
  • Respond to false statements about mental illness or people with mental illness. Many people have wrong and damaging ideas on the subject. Accurate facts and information may help change both their ideas and actions.