Forums Home

Carers Forum

Acceptance, connection, support. Share the journey.

Safe, anonymous discussion for people living with complex mental health issues, moderated 24/7 by mental health professionals.

Read the community guidelines
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Our stories

Community Manager

Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

Hi there,


This article highlights the top 5 misconceptions about mental illness:


Misconception 1: “Mental Health Problems Last Forever”


Misconception 2: “Only Violent or Unstable People Have Mental Health Problems”


Misconception 3: “You Can’t Handle Relationships”


Misconception 4: “You Can Just Snap Out of It”


Misconception 5: “Treatment Is a Waste of Time”


These misconceptions can do a great deal of damange for those with a mental illness and the people who care for them. What misconceptions do you come across the most?

Were you under any misconceptions about mental illness, which you now understand better?



Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

Hi NikNik

Thanks for posting these misconceptions. My first thought that sprung to mind is that they should be printed on toilet paper and let Mother Nature do the rest.

Before I was affected by MI issues, I never gave it much thought. Ignorance was bliss. It was only through reading, talking with professionals and experiencing episodes myself that I got a better understanding (I think). Mental illness is extremely difficult to comprehend and explain to a non-affected person because every individual is affected differently and nothing makes sense really.

There have been some really world renown people affected by MI, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. I don't believe these people were unstable, they governed countries.

Our society unfortunately still has a stigma in relation to mental health but hopefully with time, research and with better information for the general public, it will improve.

Thanks again for the post.

Stay strong!

Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

Great points @Linmerc !


I would love to hear from others too - @JT @Jo @Viv @Fatima @GivingMick @Jacob101


I share the same hope as you Linmerc - hopefully with time, research and awareness, the stigma will reduce.

Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

People are all different. I think the classifications do more damage, than the illnesses! We all cope with life using different mechanisms. I prefer phrases such as 'highly strung, or 'difficult to deal with'. Rather than putting people in the 'too hard to deal with basket'. Humanity must learn to treat others humanely with empathy!

Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

I have thought long and hard on this. And here I will try and collect my thoughts.

Being long in the tooth as I am, I can look back and see some perspective.

I believe that stigma, discrimination - prejudice... can be addressed with correct information, accurate information. It is ignorance that breeds misconceptions which leads to stigma and discrimination and prejudice.

The language we use is critical in our struggle to clarify misconceptions. For example, the difference between being judgemental and making a judgement is enormous. What is the difference between a diagnosis and a label? They are not the same thing.

All mental illnesses are different, just as all physical illnesses are different. I can recall when cancer was almost a dirty word in the community, whispered shockingly when it was discussed - it was not understood.  What a difference there is today. And then, I can remember in the '70s when I first learnt that mothers were being blamed for their child's schizophrenia. 

Today, we are beginning to use the words 'mental illness' in public, without the shame attached to it as there was in the past. Strange to think that once cancer was in some strange way shameful.

But not all mental illnesses are the same. The mental illness I am most familiar, BPD is subject to shocking stigmatisation, prejudice and discrimination. Today, mothers (and parents) are blamed for causing their child's BPD: no one would dare suggest that today for schizophrenia.

People with BPD and there carers are often heard to say with frustration: why couldn't I/can't I get a diagnosis? If I had a diagnosis then I could find out what to do. Why can't I get treatment? What do you mean there is no cure? ... and on it goes.

Unlike the concerns with mental illness at large in the community. The myths and misconceptions regarding BPD are solidly ensconced in the professions of those who are supposed to be helping, with more and more outstanding exceptions to the rule as clinicians themselves learn about BPD. Nonetheless, example after example of misinformation reflecting a lack of understanding of BPD, is seen in the media, on the internet. Whenever a group of people involved with BPD (consumer, carer, clinician) get together, the frustration with the lack of knowledge which is reflected in the poor treatment people with BPD and their families experience simmers just below the surface. The hurt is palpable.

So, not all mental illnesses are the same, the level of acceptance and understanding for each mental illness is different. Nonetheless, as a generic list, those top 5 are good. But wouldn't it be good if we understood mental illness as we understand cancer? 

Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

Great article @NikNik


Point 3 was valuable .. and gave me hope  i) son has just begun relationship.

ii) That I might one day actually be able to have a healthy relationship. I have held off until son was well enough to have other people in his and my life.  I wanted him to know he was priority and not to have to deal with complexities of another male at too close quarters.


Point 5 was interesting .. I have two responses again

 i)Yes I have tried to acknowledge my counsellors over the years and here and have been telling my more positive ending stories to support this.

ii) But my GP and finally me, are beginning to think that I wont be able to find someone with more expertise than me. That is why I made the comment on this forum, about paying nice ladies for a nice chat so they are able take their kids on fancy holiday, and make a few polite self reveals to me which of course I will be understanding about. My GP was getting my world-weary attitude,  That I was being being nice, polite. respectful etc to and about them,.. oh she's nice but a bit light-weight .I said once  It is not about the expertise.@justanother47 year old is on to something.

I know I am not a medico .. but I said I'd prefer a psychitrist as they were more intelligent  than psychologists lol that was not prejudice from lack of experience but weariness from too much experience .. a few years apart my GP reluctantly agreed for me to get checked out by a psychiatrist .. its happened in doctors rooms and in my loungeroom after I last called the CAT about 5 years ago.

I am beginning to feel if I have to continue to pay or the govt has to pay to have someone listen to me with basic respect then something is wrong with the world and I am not taking responsibility for that.   I will go back to my quiet self and be very careful about self revelation. I will pride introversion over the popularity stunts I have seen over the years.

Dont kid yourself at SANE that the STIGMA of MI or SUICIDE has gone away.  I think its great you are working on it. Its effected my relationships big time, it gives "nice" people an excuse to give me the flick. Most people want a little distance from it.


Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

@Linmerc , @Appleblossom@Viv (great to see you @GivingMick @Viv by the way! I hope you're both well - it's been awhile!)


Thank you so much for your thoughts on this. The article is very broad and you're completely right @Viv , every MI is different and there are varying levels of understanding and stigma around each of these.

So my question to you all is, what will it take to reduce the misconceptions?

@Viv your post gives me hope that this is possible! What is it about cancer that changed that made it stigma free?

@Linmerc - to your point about high profile people in history being affected by mental illness - is this a way to broaden others perspectives?

@GivingMick I totally agree - we should be treating everyone with empthay. But if the definition of 'empathy'  is putting yourself in others shoes to feel what they are feeling, how is this possible if, to @Linmerc's point, mental illness is really hard to comprehend and explain to non-affected people? I often wonder how we help those who don't understand, to undertand.

@Appleblossom it sounds like you've had a variety of experiences and what I take from your post is that those affected (whether it be having a MI or caring for someone with mental health difficulties) are best placed to drive the change of perceptions, myths and stigma of mental health.

Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

Hi NikNik

My post regarding high profile people was that people with MI can contribute to society and make a positive impact. People with MI are not blithering, drooling idiots that cannot string a sentence together, many with MI are high-functioning eg hold full time jobs, study and have normal family lives.

The downside is that they must be aware of their illness and take extra care of themselves eg try to reduce stress, have enough sleep, take medication, eat well and try to find different coping mechanisms. Apparently, during Winston Churchill's dark periods he used to lock himself away in a room with a bottle of alcohol. Not that I agree with his method of coping, but it worked for him and that was over 50 years ago. Thankfully, today we have a somewhat better understanding of MI with research into new drugs, the media portraying MI as a disease and not a death sentence, and the honest truth being discussed openly and not swept under the carpet.

There is still a huge stigma associated with MI but I believe more and more people are trying to understand because more people and families are being affected by MI whether it's a close relative or friend.

MI is a difficult disease to comprehend because everyone is affected differently, need to take different medication with different dosages and basically what works for you may not be right for me. It is an individual disease and the 'cure' has to be tailor made. Showing empathy towards something you don't understand is extremely difficult, it's blind faith and cannot be explained.

I hope I have explained myself as I still don't understand MI and probably never will. All I can say is that I try to have an open mind and an open heart and support our loved ones as they journey towards recovery.

Stat strong!

Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

Hi there!

It's strange to think of cancer being talked of in hushed tones, a topic to be avoided - pretending it is not there. I believe this was so because it was feared, it was not understood. Pain, death and dying were not nice topics. As our lifespans have increased, so have the diseases that affect us more because we are older. It wasn't that long ago when people were living till their 60s, dying of heart attacks and strokes. Our physical health campaigns have increased our life span and increased our propensity for developing cancers. When we began to learn about cancers (especially breast cancer), then the knowledge gave us a power we didn't have before. Then the fear began to dissipate. As we learnt that you can recover from cancer, that it wasn't a death sentence, then the fear began to dissipate.

This is one reason why I think it is important not to lump all mental illnesses together. Therein lies the danger of being misinformed. For example, schizophrenia has now been the subject of public discussion for many years. People with schizophrenia have been treated sympathetically in the media. Treatments for schizophrenia have improved. We now now that it is not 'split personality'....we can differentiate between it and other mental illnesses (usually). While it is not all hunky dory, it is a very different story to BPD. BPD as a diagnosis has only been around a few decades. There is still the misconception that it cannot be 'cured' and more. The general public doesn't really know it exists, although they recognise the symptoms in the people they know. As so on.

Misinformation or lack of information contributes to stigmatisation. We stigmatise because we don't understand. We blame the person stigmatised because it's an easy way to cope with what we don't understand. Most of all we want to differentiate ourselves from the group stigmatised, we don't want to be like 'them'. That way we can feel 'safer', 'superior'.

One of the problems with BPD is simply lack of reliable data. It is estimated that between 2 - 5% of the population have BPD (ie 5 of the 9 criteria). Some say 1%, some say what is the impact of this illness? Personally I believe it is much closer to 5%, based on my experience and understanding. Then evidence says 10% of those diagnosed will go on to committ suicide... I ask, how many suicide who haven't been diagnosed. Because getting a diagnosis is the first hurdle for people with BPD. It is a common refrain of anger and hurt that misdiagnoses or no diagnoses occur consistently. Then, getting treatment in the public sector is like a lucky dip. 

Knowledge will set us free....I think it will help.

I could go on for hours, but perhaps this is enough for now.


Re: Top 5 misconceptions about Mental Illness

Hi @Viv,


Thank you for your insightful post!


Physical health research/knowledge has definitely come a long way over the years, and hopefully the knowledge base for mental health will continue to grow.


Thank you for sharing this information about mental health and BPD. Do you mind sharing where you got your information from in case anyone else is interested in doing some more reading into BPD?



For urgent assistance, call: