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Some common myths

Page last updated: 2010

Myth: mental illness is for life

Most people will recover from mental illness, especially with early treatment. Some people may have one episode of illness and recover completely and other people will have episodes of mental illness with times in between when they are well. For a small percentage of people with a more severe illness, episodes of illness will occur regularly and need specialist management and long–term medication. Some people are very disabled by their illness but others with appropriate treatment can lead full and active lives.

Myth: mental illnesses are all the same

There are many types of mental illness with a variety of symptoms for each illness and each individual.

Myth: people who are mentally ill are violent

Having a mental illness does not mean someone will be violent. People receiving treatment for a mental illness are no more violent or dangerous than anyone else. It is much more likely that someone with a mental illness may hurt themselves, or be hurt by someone else.

However, there is a slightly increased possibility someone with a severe mental illness may be violent if they are not receiving treatment, have a previous history of violence, and are abusing alcohol or drugs.

Symptoms of severe illnesses may include frightening hallucinations and delusions as well as paranoia. This means there is a small chance someone who is experiencing them may become violent when they are scared and misinterpret what is happening around them.

Family members and other carers faced with these situations should seek help immediately from their GP, mental health service, or in extreme situations from the police.

If a person is being effectively treated for psychotic illness and is not abusing alcohol or drugs, there is no more risk they will be violent than anyone else.

How do I find out more?

It is important to ask your doctor about any concerns you have about mental illness. You can also call the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) for confidential information and advice. SANE Australia produces a range of easy–to–read publications and multimedia resources on mental illness.