The Truth Behind Mental Health Myths

Every year, 1 in 4 people in the United Kingdom will be diagnosed with a mental health problem and suicide has become the biggest killer of young men in the UK. (i)(ii) Thankfully, treatment options are better than they have ever been. Getting help carries fewer stigmas today than in the past.

Unfortunately, there are still many myths and misunderstandings surrounding mental health and how it affects people. Here are five of the more common myths about mental health that appear online.

Myth one: people with mental health problems are often violent

In reality, most people with mental health issues are no more likely to have a violent outburst than anybody else. Statistically, only five percent of violent incidents in England and Wales are by people with a mental illness. (iii)

On the other hand, people with mental illnesses are more often the victims of violence than the perpetrators. (iii)

Myth two: mental illnesses are the result of ‘weak character’

Mental health problems can affect anyone. Mental health problems are illnesses; therefore, they do not have anything to do with ‘being weak’ or ‘lacking willpower.’ (iv)

Factors including biology, family history and life experiences play a role in contributing to mental health problems. These factors may include:

  • Inheritable genes
  • Physical injury
  • Past trauma or abuse
  • Brain chemistry

People who suffer from mental health issues can get better and fully recover with quality support and treatment. (v)       

Myth three: there is no way to help somebody who has a mental health problem

Research shows that recovery from mental health disorders is possible. Many people who have been diagnosed with a mental health issue can get better and go on to lead fulfilling lives. (vi)

With modern medicine, there are more effective treatments available now than at any other point in history.      

Myth four: children do not get mental health problems

Mental health disorders can begin in childhood, with half of all mental health issues showing first signs before a person turns 14. (vii)

Very young children can show early warning signs of mental health issues. Some examples include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (viii)

To reach their full potential and live healthy lives, children with mental health disorders need treatment. The National Institute of Mental Health’s website includes more information about the early warning signs.

Myth five: there is nothing you can do for someone with a mental health problem

If you know someone who is struggling with a mental health issue, there are lots of ways you can help. There are specific tips available through the NHS.

Studies have shown that only 44% of adults and 20% of children with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Often, family and friends can play a crucial role in getting someone the help they need. Helping someone you know can start with:

  • Reaching out to let them know that you are there and available to help
  • Helping them find and access mental health services
  • Researching and sharing information about mental health
  • Treating them with compassion and respect (ix)


  1. Mental health statistics (2019). Mental health statistics. [online] MHFA Portal. Available at: https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/research-and-evaluation/mental-health-statistics/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].
  2. By Hamish Mackay (2018). Male suicide: “His death was the missing piece of the jigsaw.” [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43572779 [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].
  3. Thornicroft, G. (2020). People with severe mental illness as the perpetrators and victims of violence: time for a new public health approach. The Lancet Public Health, [online] 5(2), pp.e72–e73. Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(20)30002-5/fulltext [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].
  4. National, P. (2021). LGBTQ+ Support Group. [online] Namibuckspa.org. Available at: https://namibuckspa.org/mental-illness-isnt-a-character-flaw-lets-stop-treating-it-like-one-thomas-p-murt/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].
  5. Mentalhealth.gov. (2019). Recovery Is Possible | MentalHealth.gov. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/recovery-possible [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].
  6. Wolfson, P., Holloway, F. and Killaspy, H. (n.d.). Enabling recovery for people with complex mental health needs A template for rehabilitation services. [online] . Available at: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/members/faculties/rehabilitation-and-social-psychiatry/rehab-enabling-recovery-for-people-with-complex-mental-health-needs.pdf?sfvrsn=6b90f31_4.
  7. Kessler, R.C., Amminger, G.P., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Lee, S. and st??n, T.B. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literature. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, [online] 20(4), pp.359–364. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1925038/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].
  8. Nih.gov. (2021). NIMH» Children and Mental Health: Is This Just a Stage? [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/children-and-mental-health/#:~:text=Mental%20disorders%20can%20begin%20in,traumatic%20stress%20disorder%20(PTSD). [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].
  9. Lumenlearning.com. (2015). Why It Matters: Psychological Disorders | Introduction to Psychology. [online] Available at: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/waymaker-psychology/chapter/introduction-2/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2021].

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