The Truth About Mental Illness

April 18, 2017
A smiling man talking to a student in his office.

Each year, millions of people face the reality of living with a mental health condition. One in five Americans and Canadians are affected by a mental health condition every year, and almost everyone is affected through their family, friends, or colleagues. Worldwide, mental health issues affect about one in four people at some time in their lives. This accounts for some 450 million people around the world.

Throughout the month of May, NAMI will be raising awareness for the importance of mental health. The organization fights stigma, provides support, educates the public, and advocates for equal care. To join the movement, visit their page on Mental Health Month.

This led my colleague Dianne Link and I to discuss issues related to mental illness. We both teach the Challenged by Mental Illness at Work Topic Module, and often find ourselves comparing notes about so many beliefs and myths we hear about people living with and challenged by mental illness.

Dianne was kind enough to share an article she read in The New York Times. The article speaks to one of many myths about mental illness. This myth involves an overall societal belief that workplace violence is caused primarily by people who are challenged by mental illness.

I completely agree with the statements made in the article. I strongly feel that the public is largely misinformed about the often-reported link between mental illness and violence. In searching for answers, we try to make sense of mass shootings and other violent events that defy sense. We sometimes look for magic solutions where there is no magic. In doing so, we sometimes focus on inaccurate and incorrect information without considering all of the facts.

At CPI, we have conducted extensive research on this topic. When we designed the Topic Module, we consulted many international subject matter experts on the issue.

The fact is that many people engage in problematic behavior at work, even without a diagnosis of mental illness. We can never assume that problematic behavior of any kind—even when extreme—is due to mental illness. It is also important to note that mental illness is a medical condition that should be diagnosed by properly qualified professionals. 

In fact, people living with mental illness are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators, of violence.  

Myth: Mentally ill people are violent. Truth: People w/ #mentalillness are more often victims.

Generally, they are no more violent than the overall population. While individuals with some forms of serious mental illness present some degree of risk, appropriate treatment strategies often mitigate this factor.

Mental health issues are more common than most people think. In fact, 1 in 4 people experiences at least one mental disorder in their lifetime. Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and depression is the most common mental health problem. 

Staff awareness training

CPI’s Challenged by Mental Illness at Work Topic Module is a training program for raising employee awareness about and increasing sensitivity toward the issue of mental illness.

The training helps participants build practical strategies for managing many different types of problematic behavior at work. It presents CPI’s Four Priorities of Mental Health Crisis Response Procedures, and empowers participants to:

  • Explore assumptions and beliefs about mental illness.
  • Describe CPI’s working definition of mental illness and related terminology.
  • Discuss realities and myths about people living with mental illness.
  • Intervene in problem situations.
  • Refer individuals who may be experiencing a potential mental health crisis to appropriate resources.

If you’re a CPI Certified Instructor

Log in to purchase workbooks for teaching the Topic Module to staff at your organization.

Now I pass it over to you.

What are you doing to become more inspired, informed, and involved? Please let me know in the comments!