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While important and eye-opening statistics about mental health often make news headlines today, many stories that circulate about mental healthcare and mental illness simply are not true. Unfortunately, because these myths are frequently repeated, people often don’t realize they’re not getting the facts.
Greater research and understanding in this field helps us separate the tall tales from reality. Here are six of the most prevalent mental health myths—debunked by facts.
Myth #1: People with mental illness can’t handle the stress of a full-time job.
Fact: According to MentalHealth.gov, people with mental illness can be just as productive as other workers. Depending on the severity of their mental illness, some employees may need accommodations to create a sustainable working environment. However, once these accommodations are met, employees with mental illness often become a welcome and long-term addition to their immediate team and larger organization.
Some conditions, such as autism, may in fact be better suited to dealing with stresses that tend to dog neurotypical individuals, although obviously this varies by the individual and the occupation. For HR professionals, the great news is that a person with a mental illness may be the perfect fit for your organization, as long as the hiring committee can see past any inadvertent prejudices they may have.
Myth #2: People suffering from mental illnesses are violent.
Fact: Despite what you may have heard on your local broadcast network, people with mental illness aren’t any more violent and/or dangerous than the rest of the population.
Unfortunately, for years the United States has experienced an unprecedented wave of violent mass crimes, which are often ascribed incorrectly by the media as being perpetrated by someone with a mental illness. This has led to a widespread and incorrect sense that violence and mental illness are somehow linked. The truth is that people suffering from mental illness are accountable for only 3-5% of violent crimes, and are in fact 10 times more likely to be the victims of violence.
Myth #3: Seeking mental health care will result in you being ostracized at work.
Fact: While the United States does have a history of stigmatizing mental illness, the impulse to “shame” someone for seeking the care they need is becoming a relic of a less tolerant and informed age. Not only are there strong legal protections in place that prevent employees with mental illness from being fired without cause, but there is also a greater level of awareness about how many people in the workforce benefit from seeking treatment sooner rather than later.
HR professionals now routinely make sure their company’s health care packages have a mental health component. Quite simply, mental illness in the workplace is more common than you may think. Being honest about your mental health needs ultimately benefits not only you, but the workplace as a whole.
Myth #4: It’s impossible to prevent mental illnesses.
Fact: Not all mental illnesses develop because of a genetic predisposition: many mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders stem from early exposure to trauma. The good news is that it is possible to invest in the emotional and social well-being of children, teenagers, and young adults, thereby preventing or significantly mitigating the development of a mental health issue.
For employers, having easily accessible mental health care options can make an incredible difference in a young employee’s life. Like any illness, with treatment people can manage their symptoms and in some cases make a full recovery.
Myth #5: People suffering from bipolar disorder are moody.
Fact: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 4.4% of American adults experience bipolar disorder during their lives. Despite the fact that this is a surprisingly common mental illness, many people do not understand how a person with the condition actually behaves. Bipolar disorder does not mean that someone experiences rapid mood shifts on a day-to-day basis; rather, it refers to a months-long transition from a “manic” or general high-energy state into a “depressive” or low-energy state.
Highly accomplished people, including Winston Churchill and Catherine Zeta-Jones, have suffered from this condition. For HR professionals, it’s helpful for you to check in with employees who, over a period of many months, dramatically increase their productivity or output, or dramatically start underperforming. While it’s normal for people to have bursts of energy or lethargy, someone whose entire personality or work ethic seems to change may be unknowingly suffering from bipolar disorder.
Myth #6: Mental health problems don’t have anything to do with me or my company.
Fact: Nearly one in five Americans suffers from some form of mental illness, which means that approximately 20% of your workforce is probably experiencing symptoms right now. Even if you have a perfect bill of health, the health of your coworkers and colleagues will affect your organization’s overall performance and productivity. We all know that a team functions best when every member brings their all to the workplace. By investing in mental health care, organizations can ensure that they remain competitive, productive, and capable of tackling whatever challenges may come their way.
This need to create and sustain a healthy workforce is partly why Spring Health has developed a data-driven, highly tailored approach to mental health care. Whether an employee would benefit from a course in mindfulness, counseling sessions with a qualified therapist, or a clinical visit, our extensive network of physicians, scientific advisors, and trained specialists can offer the specific care they need. Our years of experience and customized patient care enables us to help organizations successfully provide for their employees.