Facts and Myths

Test your mental illness know-how and get the facts straight—for your loved ones, for your community or even for your own health.

Myth: “Crazy” is just a word or expression, it isn’t meant to be harmful. It can’t do damage.
Fact: The language we use can add to stigma. This experience of feeling shame and being judged is part of the problem individuals living with mental illness and addiction face each day. Many people say that the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction, including harmful words or phrases, is worse than the illness itself.

Myth: People living with schizophrenia are dangerous. I saw a story on TV where someone with that illness shot someone!
Fact: Individuals living with schizophrenia or any mental illness are rarely dangerous. Individuals living with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than inflict harm on others.

Myth: People with addictions are weak. They just need to stop.
Fact: Addictions are not a choice. In fact addictions are a type of mental illness. With support and the right treatment, recovery is possible.

Myth: Depression is pure laziness. Get it together!
Fact: This myth that depression can be fixed by pulling up your socks, putting on a brave face and just simply “getting it together” is common. All of us have a personal responsibility to do what we can to get well, regardless of the illness. Depression is often accompanied by fatigue, decreased energy, poor concentration and slowed thinking. It requires a treatment plan that may include medication as well as therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy. This therapy teaches us how our thoughts can affect our feelings and ultimately our behaviour. This can be intensive and when the person is well enough to participate, can include components of self help, journal writing, homework and other techniques.

Depression is a serious medical illness that, at times, requires hospitalization. It can lead to hopelessness and suicide. Treating depression with pep talks or by trying to cajole or put pressure on the person can reaffirm their feelings of being judged and misunderstood. Listen to the person’s experience! Understanding what depression is can make the recovery journey that much easier.

Myth: Alcoholism and gambling addiction are choices.
Fact: Cancer isn’t a choice. Neither is heart disease. Alcoholism and gambling addiction are serious disorders and they are also not the choice of the individual. Again, as with any illness, we all have a personal responsibility to do what we can to get well. The same applies to persons with addictions. They require treatment, support and understanding, just like treating many other illnesses.

Myth: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) only impacts soldiers or those who have been to war.
Fact: PTSD can impact anyone, not just individuals who have represented their country abroad during military action. Individuals with a history of tragedy, loss or a major event (such as sexual, emotional or physical abuse or an accident) may have painful memories impacting their emotional wellness as part of their PTSD.

Myth: If I ask my husband if he has suicidal thoughts, it will give him the idea and may cause him to act on those thoughts.
Fact: Asking someone whether they have suicidal thoughts won’t increase their chances of attempting suicide. However, not asking may. Feelings of hopelessness (no one understands) and helplessness (nothing can help me) can lead to suicide. Talking about it, offering support and reaching out can make the difference.

Myth: Mental illness only impacts the poor.
Fact: Mental illnesses impact 1 in 5 Canadians, each year, from all walks of life, men and women, of all ages and in all parts of Canada. The campaign to reduce stigma is for all Canadians.

We are all affected—let’s create waves of change and understanding.

Want to Learn More? Keep Going for Change!

Does the fact that one person in five lives with a mental illness in any year surprise you? Consider the following:

  • 1 in 25 people in Canada lives with heart disease. 1 in 15 lives with type 2 diabetes. Unlike most other chronic diseases, mental health problems and illnesses hit early in people’s lives. More than 70% have their onset in childhood and 28% of people aged 20-29 experience a mental illness in a given year. By the time people reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 people in Canada will have had or have a mental illness.
  • With nearly 4 million people living with either a mood or an anxiety disorder in 2011, these are the most common mental illnesses in Canada.
  • People in their early and prime working years are among the hardest hit by mental health problems and illnesses. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, about 21.4% of the working population in Canada currently experience mental health problems and illnesses, which can affect their productivity.
  • Mental health problems and illnesses account for approximately 30% of short- and long-term disability claims, and are rated one of the top three drivers of such claims by more than 80% of Canadian employers.
  • There are some gender differences: women are more often diagnosed with depression than men, while men are diagnosed more with alcohol dependence. Women attempt suicide more often than men, but men die from suicide more often than women.
  • Canada’s Aboriginal communities, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador, experience higher rates of suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.