Myth #1: Mental illness only affects certain types of people

September 16, 2016 Providence Health Team

Each year, almost 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More than half won’t be treated due to stigma, lack of access to services or lack of knowledge about help that is available.

As part of our commitment to improving the lives of people with mental illness, we’re launching a series of articles to debunk the myths surrounding these life-threatening conditions. We hope you find them helpful to someone you care about.

Amy Compton-Phillips, M.D., executive vice president and chief clinical officer

Mental illness is a reality for millions of Americans of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds. Like physical illness, mental illness is a medical condition.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you are from, mental illness can affect anyone,” said Arpan Waghray, M.D., medical director of behavioral health at Swedish Health Services. In fact, 50 percent of Americans will have a mental illness at some point in their lives—ranging from a short-term bout of the blues, to depression or anxiety.

As common as mental illness is, it can be easily swept under the rug due to many persistent myths that make it hard to reach out for help.

“Research shows us that negative perceptions can hold people back from seeking treatment and sometimes even prevent them from revealing issues to their doctors,” Dr. Waghray said. “These findings stress the importance of educating the public on how to support people who have a mental illness, and also the need to remove barriers to treatment.”

Our commitment: Closing the stigma gap

Across our organization, many programs are closing the stigma gap to ensure people with mental illness are receiving help. These efforts include embedding mental health experts in primary care clinics for better access to same-day services, sponsoring community awareness walks and creating school-based youth counseling programs.

With the launch of the Providence St. Joseph Health Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, we will increase efforts to eliminate the stigma and improve access to care in the communities we serve.

How to get help

With screenings, treatment and support systems, many people with mental illness recover and live well. If you, or someone you love, is looking for mental health help, an important first step is talking to your primary care provider. You can also ask your provider if there is a behavioral health specialist on site.

For more reading about mental health challenges, see our article on untreated depression, Instagram photos and depression, probiotics and depression and anxiety in young women.

Looking for a health care provider near you? If so, find one here.

This article is the first in a series debunking myths about mental illness.

Sources: National Alliance for Mental Illness; Centers for Disease Control; American Psychological Association

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