Mental Illness Mythbusters

Mental Health Brief #26

Mental Illness Mythbusters

Here are five common mental health misconceptions that lawyers may face, and some truths about mental illness that can help reduce stigma:


  • Myth 1: Mental illness is a single, rare disorder. Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, impulse control disorders and addiction disorders are all mental illnesses. There are multiple types of mental illness, each with its own features, underlying causes and treatment options.
  • Myth 2: People with a mental illness never get better. Treatments for mental illnesses are more numerous and more sophisticated now than ever before. As well, researchers continue to discover new treatments. Because of these advances, many people do recover, and others are able to keep conditions under control. Today’s pharmaceutical treatments are better able to target the specific parts of the brain where treatment is needed. While some conditions might wax and wane in severity throughout a person’s adult life, symptoms can be kept under control with proper treatment. Full recovery is attainable, and it may involve more than just drugs; it also may include being socially and physically active.
  • Myth 3: Psychiatric disorders are not true illnesses. Unlike a broken leg or heart attack (which are easily detected by simple tests), mental illness has traditionally been invisible. This inability to see what’s wrong adds to the perception, and even fear, of mental illness. But mental illnesses are bona fide medical conditions. They involve complex physiological processes, as well as changes or imbalances in brain chemistry.
  • Myth 4: People with a mental illness lack intelligence. Intelligence has nothing to do with mental illness. On one hand, many people with mental disorders are brilliant, creative, productive people. On the other hand, some people with mental disorders are not brilliant or creative. Overall, the level of intelligence among people with mental illness likely parallels the patterns seen in any healthy population.
  • Myth 5: People with a mental illness shouldn’t have jobs. They’ll just drag down the rest of the staff. People with mental illness can and do function well in the workplace. They are unlikely to miss any more workdays because of their condition than people with a chronic physical condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Employees may not even be aware that a co-worker suffers from a mental illness. Similarly, a stress-ridden workplace may be a breeding ground for the development of stress-related mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders, and threaten work-life balance.

The Opening Remarks mental health briefs provide Ontario lawyers with wellness tips and resources from a variety of individuals speaking in their own capacity. The briefs are not a substitute for professional care. If you are in crisis, we encourage you to urgently contact a mental health service provider.