Mental health issues are treatable
Most people with a mental health issue recover well with appropriate ongoing treatment and support. People with mental health issues severe enough to cause disability are able to live independently in the community, if given the opportunity and support to do so.
Related: Treatments for mental illness
Not enough people seek help
Around 65% of people experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue don’t seek help from health services. About 40% of women get help, but for men it’s fewer than 30%.
You can’t just ‘snap out of’ a mental health issue
Mental health issues respond to treatment and support, not orders and judgement. People with depression can’t just ‘cheer up’. People with anxiety can’t just ‘calm down’. People experiencing delusions can’t just ‘come to their senses’ and people with OCD can’t just ‘give it a rest’. A good rule is to ask yourself if you would say it to a person who had a broken leg. If you wouldn't then it would probably be hurtful to someone with mental health issues.
Related: the SANE guide to stigma
Mental health is physical health
Many illnesses labelled ‘physical’ can have effects on your mental health and mental health issues can affect your physical health. Mental health issues can affect your life expectancy by up to 25 years and make you more susceptible to other physical illnesses. Having complex mental health issue has an even greater effect.
Treatment is not one-size-fits-all
What works to manage one person's depression may not work for someone else with depression. With support and advice from health professionals, people often try different combinations of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes to manage their illness, before settling on what works for them.
Medication doesn’t make you a zombie
For most people being treated for (or managing) an illness, the side-effects of medication are outweighed by their benefits. Medications for mental health are not designed to change your personality, but to reduce the symptoms that are get in the way of your quality of life.
You don’t have to be extremely sick to get help
The earlier you seek help for mental health issues, the better your prospects for recovery. So if you think there’s even a slight chance you need help with your mental health, talk to your GP. You’re not clogging up the system or denying anyone else care. Either you’ll be reassured that you’re not unwell, or you’ll get a head start on the road back to good health.
Related: Getting better
Most people with mental health issues aren’t hospitalised
Just like with any other illness, people who live with mental health issues only need to go to hospital if their symptoms are serious enough. Most people receiving psychological treatment or managing mental health issues are able to work, have relationships and go about normal daily business.
Most people with mental health issues can work
Three out of five Australians with a mental health issue are employed, which is lower than for people who aren’t living with a mental health issue.
Mental health issues are still stigmatised by employers: as few as 43% of small-to-medium enterprises say they would consider hiring someone with a mental illness. When specifically asked about people with psychotic illness or substance addiction problems the figure drops to one fifth or fewer.
However, research shows that the majority of employers who hire someone with a mental health issue have a positive experience, and find the employee is hardworking and fits in well with the team. As stigma reduces, employment prospects for people with mental illness rise.
Related: Mental illness & the workplace
5.1% of health funding is mental health funding
During 2013-14 $8 billion ($344 per person) was spent on funding for mental health-related services in Australia.
This represents just over 5.1% of the $154.6 billion (just over $6600 per person) spent on all health goods and services during the same period.
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Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467
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The facts vs myths factsheet series
- Fact vs myth: mental illness basics
- Fact vs myth: treatments & recovery
- Fact vs myth: mental illness & violence
- Fact vs myth: specific disorders
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, Australia, 2007, ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS, p. 23.
Parks, J., Svendsen, D., Singer, P. and Foti, M. eds. (2006). Mortality and Morbidity in People with Serious Mental Illness. Alexandria, VA: NASMHPD, p.11.
De Hert, M., Correll, C. U., Bobes, J., Cetkovich-Bakmas, M., Cohen, D., Asai, I., Detraux, J., Gautam, S., Möller, H-J., Ndetei, D., Newcomer, J., Uwakwe, R. and Leucht, S. (2015). Physical Illness in Patients with Severe Mental Disorders. I. Prevalence, Impact of Medications and Disparities in Health Care. World Psychiatry. Volume 10(1), pp.52-77.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2015). National Health Survey First Results. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra, ABS. [accessed 7 October 2016]
WISE Employment (2014) Empowermental Research Snapshot 2014. WISE Employment. [accessed 6 October 2016]
DEEWR (2008). Employer Attitudes to Employing People with Mental Illness. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, p.29.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2015). Health Expenditure Australia 2013–14. Cat. no. HWE 63. Canberra: AIHW