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Mental Health Myths Vs. Reality: Debunking Harmful Stereotypes

Stigma often clouds the truth about mental wellbeing. There are many myths circulating. Read on to understand the reality and debunk common misconceptions.

Talking about mental health isn’t easy. You’ve probably heard all sorts of things about it, some true, some… not so much. There’s a ton of outdated views and bad information out there that can keep teens like you from leveling up your mental health game.

So, we’re here to help clear some of that up. Let’s tackle some of these myths head-on, so you can focus on understanding and prioritizing your own wellbeing.

MYTH: Only a few teens struggle with feelings of anxiety, sadness or mental illness.

REALITY: Let’s break that stigma: Many teens grapple with their mental health. You’re not alone, and it’s more common than you might think.

More than 40% of high school students said they felt so sad or hopeless they weren’t up for their regular activities, according to the CDC. And at some point during their lives, more than 1 in 5 teens have had a seriously debilitating mental illness, according to the CDC.

MYTH: Mental health challenges mean you’re weak or flawed.

REALITY: Mental health isn’t about character. It is not as simple as just “snapping out of it,” and strength isn’t about “switching off” feelings. Reaching out to a friend or trusted loved one is vulnerable and can be an important first step toward stability.

Addressing your mental health and embracing the journey is a sign of love towards yourself and a testament to your self-awareness. Reaching out for help when you aren’t feeling well, just like any other physical issue, is a positive step you can take to start feeling better.

And remember, there are many factors personal to everyone that can impact mental health, including biological factors. Life experiences that include trauma or abuse or a family history of mental health conditions can also play a role.

REALITY: External achievements don’t shield from internal struggles. Maybe you’re known as the friend who always “has it together,” the teen who juggles many roles for their family, or a kid with lots of friends backing them up at a sports event or at school.

Anyone, regardless of life’s highs, can face mental health challenges. And remember, just like on social media, what we see of someone’s life is usually only a tiny bit of their life. High achievers have often reported high levels of depression or anxiety due to pressures about their grades, competition among peers, and many other issues. Many may choose to suffer in silence because they feel the need to maintain a certain image or reputation.

MYTH: Mental health is only for the severely mentally ill or those with a diagnosis.

REALITY: Every teen’s mental wellbeing matters. Taking care of your mind is just as important, diagnosis or not. When we talk about your mental health, we mean your emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing.

We like to think of it as managing your phone’s battery life. Just like your phone needs to be charged, your mind has its own kind of “energy” that needs to be looked after. Some days, everything is working just fine, and other days, the battery feels slow, and we need to give ourselves a break and recharge.

MYTH: Once you have mental health symptoms, they’re there for life.

REALITY: People evolve, learn, and grow. And, of course, with all things, every journey is personal and different. And while these symptoms can make getting out of bed for school feel like more of a slog or work up the energy to remain social, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever.

Remember, feelings can ebb and flow. And with the right combination of people, planning, and strategy, you can manage those symptoms. It may be hard to notice the difference. That’s why many people struggling with their mental health might hear about keeping a gratitude list or journal – and keeping track of those wins, and the better days – can make a huge difference in how you feel each day.

Sometimes, it can just mean doing one thing each day to help yourself. Check out what our community said was the one thing they did every day to help protect their wellbeing. Try one out, or be inspired to find your own!

MYTH: People with mental health struggles are violent or dangerous.

REALITY: That’s a harmful stereotype. And it can prevent those who need help from opening up and getting the support they need. In fact, only 3% to 5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a severe mental illness, according to nationwide statistics. Mental health struggles don’t define someone’s actions or intentions.

MYTH: There’s nothing you can do to help someone facing mental health challenges.

REALITY: Being there, lending an ear, or understanding can make all the difference. Your support matters. If you’re a teen and not sure how to start having those conversations with your friends, we’ve put together some tips to help keep it real and comfortable.

Parents, teachers, coaches, and trusted adults, there’s a huge role for you, too. In recent research, 95% of teens trust adults in their lives for mental health information, yet only half initiate these conversations. This is a vital chance for you to proactively engage and support teens facing potential mental wellbeing challenges. Here are some tips for how to help and some insight into what young people wish you knew about supporting their mental health.

Disclaimer: This website offers general information and is not a substitute for professional advice. We are not clinicians or trained professionals; this information should not replace seeking help from a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare provider for personalized guidance.