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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 7, 1999


June 7, 1999

MYTH #1: Mental illness is not a disease and cannot be treated.

FACT:     Research in the last decade proves that mental illnesses are
          diagnosable disorders of the brain.  New brain imaging
          technologies visually illustrate the differences in the 
          brains of healthy people and people with serious mental 
          disorders, such as schizophrenia.  They show reductions in 
          the overall volume of the brain and distinct differences in 
          the way in which the brain processes information.  There are 
          also now effective treatments for mental illness that, for 
          example, relieve symptoms for 80 percent of people with major
          depression; control symptoms such as hallucination or 
          delusions for 70 percent of people with schizophrenia; and 
          alleviate symptoms for 50 to 60 percent of people with 
          Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

MYTH #2: Mental illness doesn't happen to people like me or my family.

FACT:     Mental illness affects most extended American families.  One 
          in five Americans suffer from mental illness at some point in
          their life.  These illnesses strike all kinds of families, 
          regardless of race, socioeconomic class, educational level or 
          place of residence.  Schizophrenia occurs at equal rates 
          regardless of education, socioeconomic status, or culture.  
          Depression, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorders 
          are also equal opportunity illnesses.  Women suffer from 
          depression at twice the rate of men regardless of where they 
          live, their culture, or socioeconomic status.  Five million 
          older Americans suffer from depression, and one in ten 
          children and adolescents suffer from some type of mental 
          illness.  Mental illness can happen to anyone.

MYTH #3: Depression is a part of life that can be worked through

without seeking help.

FACT:     Depression is a diagnosable, treatable illness that affects 
          19 million adult Americans each year.  It is a disorder of 
          the brain that is characterized by serious and persistent 
          symptoms such as changes in sleep, appetite, and energy; 
          cognitive losses such as slowed thinking; and clearly 
          discernible feelings like irritability, hopelessness, and 
          guilt.  The severity and duration of depression symptoms are 
          clearly distinguishable from sadness and mood swings that are
          part of life.  When untreated, depression can have serious 
          consequences.  Depression is the cause of over two-thirds of 
          the 30,000 American suicides each year, and according to the 
          World Health Organization, it is the leading cause of 
          disability in the United States.  However, there are 
          effective treatments available that have proven to have 80
          percent success rate for people diagnosed with depression.

MYTH #4: Teenagers don't suffer from "real" mental illness; they are

just moody.

FACT:     We now know that teenagers and even younger children, can and 
          do suffer from mental illness. One in ten children and 
          adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause 
          some level of impairment, but fewer than 20 percent of these 
          children receive treatment.  Without treatment, schoolwork 
          may suffer, normal family and peer relationships may be 
          disrupted, and violent acts may occur.  In fact, depression 
          may lead to suicide, which is the third leading cause of 
          death among young adults.  However, recent studies indicate 
          that 60 percent of depressed teenagers will improve with 
          modern treatments.

MYTH #5: Depression is a part of aging.

FACT:     Research shows that depression is not a normal part of aging, 
          but that it is relatively prevalent among older people and 
          can have serious adverse consequences.  Nearly 5 million of 
          the 32 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from 
          clinical depression.  While only 13 percent of the U.S. 
          population, individuals ages 65 and older account for 20 
          percent of all suicide deaths, with white males being most 
          vulnerable.  And older persons with other serious health 
          problems (strokes, hip fractures, heart conditions) 
          depression may delay recovery, cause refusal of treatment, 
          and lead to excessive disability and even death.  However, 
          effective mental health treatment is available for older
          Americans suffering from mental illness.

MYTH #6: Talk about suicide is an idle threat that need not be taken


FACT:     People who admit to having thoughts and plans about suicide 
          and people who have attempted suicide are at increased risk 
          for completing suicide in the future.  In a study of nearly 
          4,000 adults seeking psychiatric treatment, persons with a 
          history of severe suicidal thoughts were 14 times more likely
          than other individuals to later commit suicide within four 
          years.  Research has shown that 90 percent of all suicide 
          victims have had a mental or substance abuse disorder.

MYTH #7: We cannot afford to treat mental disorders.

FACT:     We cannot afford NOT to treat mental illness.  Researchers
          estimate that mental illnesses, including indirect costs such 
          as days lost from work, cost America tens of billions of 
          dollars each year.  At the same time, businesses and states 
          that have implemented new strategies to treat these disorders 
          have not found notable increases in costs.  For example, one 
          business, Bank One, spearheaded a comprehensive effort to 
          improve the company's ability to identify and get appropriate 
          treatment for employees with depression in a timely manner.  
          Between 1991 and 1995, the direct treatment costs for 
          depressive disorders decreased by 60 percent.  Moreover, Ohio 
          implemented full mental health parity for its state employees
          and did not find that this action increased costs at all.

MYTH #8: People with severe and persistent mental illnesses cannot be

productive members of society.

FACT:     People with psychiatric disabilities face many barriers, but
          appropriate support services can help them to succeed.  A 
          1995 study of the Employment Intervention Demonstration 
          Program run by the Center for Mental Health Services assessed 
          the effectiveness of employment strategies to assist 
          individuals with severe mental illness get and keep 
          employment.  It found that 55 percent of individuals 
          receiving such employment support services were working after 
          two years.  Clearly, people with severe and persistent mental 
          illnesses want to be employed and productive, and given 
          appropriate treatment and support, they can be.

MYTH #9: Homeless people suffering from mental illness have little

chance of recovery.

FACT:     There are effective treatments for homeless people with
          mental illness.  While one-third of homeless Americans suffer 
          from an untreated mental illness, research demonstrates a 
          decrease in homelessness when outreach to these individuals 
          is coupled with case management that provides them with 
          appropriate medical treatment and connects them to housing 
          and other supportive services.  One study reported a 45 
          percent reduction in the number of days of homelessness after 
          three months of this type of treatment.  Over a year, clients 
          had a 70 percent increase in the number of days worked, 
          demonstrating that homeless persons with mental illnesses can 
          make substantial improvements in the overall quality of their 

MYTH #10: There is no hope for people with mental illness.

FACT:     These illnesses, which will affect one in five Americans, can 
          be extremely debilitating.  However, research proves that 
          mental illnesses are diagnosable and treatable disorders of 
          the brain.  Eighty percent of people treated for severe 
          depression and 70 percent or people treated for schizophrenia 
          show positive responses to treatment -- far higher rates than 
          for many physical illnesses.  The challenge is to ensure that 
          Americans with mental illness recognize these disorders and 
          get the help that they need.