By Hilary Caton, Communications Coordinator
In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness.
Mental Illness Awareness Week kicked off October 1. This national public education campaign is designed to help shine a light on the reality of living with mental illness.
There are many myths surrounding mental illness that result in stigma and discrimination.
At CAMH we believe that challenging stigma requires a closer look at society’s attitudes towards mental health.
Here are a few common myths about mental illness:
Myth #1: People don’t recover from mental illnesses
“At the Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention, we’re proving recovery is absolutely possible. In its many forms, brain stimulation is proving effective in treating a wide-range of mental illnesses long thought untreatable.
Our evidence that recovery is possible is growing; evidence into brain stimulation for hard-to-treat depression is growing. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is already approved for adults with depression in many parts of the world, and is showing promise in treating, hard-to-treat depression, suicidality, some of the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”
—Dr. Daniel M. Blumberger, Medical Head and Co-Director, Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention
Myth #2: Mental illnesses are just an excuse for bad behavior
“An excuse is a deliberate attempt to lessen blame. People do not choose to experience mental illness as a way to duck responsibility for bad behaviour. But implicit in the myth is the equation of mental illness with bad behaviour, which reflects an underlying negative bias. All of us behave badly at times.”
—Dr. David Goldbloom, Senior Medical Advisor, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
Myth #3: Mental illnesses aren’t real illnesses
"In this day and age, this is one of the most invalidating and ignorant statements we can hear. With $51 billion spent annually on mental health care costs in Canada; 30 per cent of it is Disability Claims related to mental illness and 35 per cent related to Work Disruptions.
The extent of psychological and emotional pain and suffering as well as suicide is devastating and paralyzing. Mental Illness, just like physical illness, affects each person and is everyone's problem."
—Dr. Katy Kamkar, Clinical Psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.
Myth #4: Kids can’t have a mental illness, like depression
“Until recently, it was widely believed young people couldn’t get depression. ‘What do children have to be depressed about?’ This has changed in the past 15 years as scientists came to understand that depression has physiological and genetic roots, and is also a response to bullying, family conflict, trauma and neglect. Around the world, 350 million people are living with depression and — for 70 per cent of them — the illness starts in adolescence.
By preventing and properly treating children when depression starts, we will dramatically change the course of a young person’s life and potential.”
—Dr. Peter Szatmari, Director, Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression
Myth #5: People with mental illnesses are violent and dangerous
“Public fear around people with mental illness greatly exceeds the actual risk of violence they pose. In fact, studies show only a small proportion of violent crimes are committed by people with a serious mental illness. Only about four per cent of homicides are committed by people with serious mental illness. People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
We all know people with serious mental illness do become entangled in the criminal justice system, often because care and supports are inadequate in the community. We should see this as a major failure of our systems of care.”
—Dr. Sandy Simpson, Chief of Forensic Psychiatry at CAMH
During Mental Illness Awareness Week, join the conversation on social media by using #MIAW18 to help dispel these and other myths.