Many harmful myths surround the subject of mental illness. It’s important for us to learn the truth behind these myths \u2014\u00a0and have empathy for those suffering with mental illness.\nJack F. Cahalane, PhD, chief of Adult Mood and Anxiety Services at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, sheds some light on these common misconceptions.\nLearn more about the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC. Call 412-624-2100.\nMyth: Cases of mental health problems are rare\nFact:\n\n20 percent of people in the United States have a mental health problem\n15 percent of men are depressed\n20 percent of women will experience an episode of major depression in their lifetime\n\nMyth: People with mental health disorders are more prone to violent behavior than others\nFact: This simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s more likely for people living with mental illness to be the victims of violent crime.\n“When people see events in the news and hear that someone may have mental illness, they make that connection,” says Dr. Cahalane. “But people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crimes.”\nFind help by calling the re:solve Crisis Network at 1-888-796-8226\nMyth: Personal weakness causes mental health disorders\nFact: “Mental illnesses are brain diseases \u2014 they’re not weaknesses or character flaws,” explains Dr. Cahalane.\nMental health issues are like other illnesses, except they’re in the brain.\nMyth: People with mental health disorders can’t hold a job\nFact: You come across people managing a mental health concern all the time in everyday life. Most people living with a mental health issue don’t talk about it because of the stigma attached.\n“Most people who experience a mental illness continue to function very well,” adds Dr. Cahalane.\nMyth: Just think positive, and it’ll go away\nFact: Mental illnesses such as depression rob a person of the ability to think positively about themselves and the future. Brushing aside that the illness is serious can have negative repercussions, says Dr. Calahane.\n“I think there is a danger in saying to someone, ‘You have this and that going for you, so just think positive.’ Such comments imply that the person should be able to do that when they really can’t.”\nMyth: There’s nothing you can do to help\nFact: It can be hard to think positively about yourself when dealing with a mental health issue. Half of those suffering from depression do not seek treatment.\n“That’s why it’s important to provide support and understanding. Educate yourself about the illness and encourage the person to seek treatment. Many people don’t seek treatment because they’re embarrassed or don’t know who to see. Or they think it’s a personal flaw and feel responsible for it,” explains Dr. Cahalane.\nMental health disorders can be isolating. If the person doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you, encourage them to talk with their family doctor or a trusted confidant.\nMyth: Children don’t experience mental illness\nFact: Nearly one in five children have a mental illness.\n“For many people, mental health problems begin in childhood,” explains Dr. Cahalane, “so it’s important for parents to recognize the warning signs.”\nBehavioral changes to be aware of in children include:\n\nA drop in school grades\nSelf-isolation\nLoss of appetite\nInability to sleep\n\nMyth: Stress causes mental health breakdowns\nFact: This is true.\n“Stress can play a role in mental health,” warns Dr. Cahalane. “Experiencing a mental health issue can be very stressful for both the person and their family members.”\nMyth: You should wait until it gets bad to seek treatment\nFact: You need immediate treatment if a mental health issue is negatively impacting your ability to function or enjoy everyday life. Mental illness doesn’t just go away on its own. The longer you wait, the harder it can be to treat.