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Myths & Facts about Mental Health

Misconceptions about mental health and what it means to struggle with mental illness are common. Below are frequently-believed myths about mental health, followed by the real facts.

MYTH: Mental illness is rare; only people with serious mental illness struggle.

FACT: Mental health concerns and mental illnesses are common. According to data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 43.6 million U.S. adults (or 18.1%) aged 18 and older experienced “any mental illness,” (AMI) in 2014.¹ National College Health Assessment Spring 2013 survey data suggests that on U.S. college campuses, approximately 22% of students had a mental health diagnosis in the previous year.²


MYTH: Yalies don't experience struggles with mental health.

FACT: Many students access Mental Health and Counseling for a variety of mental health concerns. At Yale, approximately 20% of all students access services at Mental Health and Counseling during their time on campus. Yale students most commonly seek counseling for depression and anxiety, which is consistent with national data. However, students pursue counseling for a variety of reasons

MYTH: Mental illness and mental health concerns are a sign of weakness. If a person is strong enough, they can solve problems on their own.

FACT: Mental health concerns do not represent a personal failure and do not reflect a person’s basic character. Many factors can cause mental illness, including biology, personal experience, and family history.³

MYTH: Taking medication will immediately solve my problems and make me feel better.

FACT: While many people are prescribed medication for treatment of a mental illness, they do so under the clinical supervision of a psychiatrist and often supplement medication with other forms of treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, depending on their condition. Every case is unique, and not all forms of treatment or medication serve every person in the same way. Your clinician will recommend the treatment options that best meet your needs. 

MYTH: There is no cure for mental illness.

FACT: Mental illness can be treated, and many people recover after seeking help. Even the small percentage of people with serious mental illness can, in most cases, be effectively treated and live well-balanced lives.

MYTH: I cannot help someone who is struggling with mental illness if I am not a mental health professional.

FACT: Family and friends should never carry the burden of someone else’s illness, whether it is physical or mental; however, they can be supportive in many ways. Encouraging someone close to you to seek help can be instrumental in their path to getting better. You can help make sure they are aware of the resources available and support them in their choice to seek help. 

The information on this page has been adapted from www.mentalhealth.gov

1.  Any mental illness, or AMI, is classified as “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (excluding developmental and substance use diesorders) diagnosable currently or in the past year, and of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV.)” 

“Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among U.S. Adults,” National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-us-adults.shtml.

2. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2013. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2013.

The data set for this survey consisted of a general student sample of 123.078 student respondents from 153 institutions. All data is self-reported by students.

3. “What is Mental Health?,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health.