Myths and Mental Illness: Week 1 | Seattle NTC

Myths and Mental Illness: Week 1

The following guest article from Swedish Health Services/Providence Health & Services is the first in a series debunking myths about mental illness that will be featured here on the SeattleNTC blog. 

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

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.”

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