Main Menu

Mental health myths & facts

There's a lot of information about mental health and wellbeing out there, so let's bust some common mental health misconceptions

Dad or male adult talking with teen boy who is laughing

It's impossible to know everything there is to know about mental health.

But as a parent or caregiver, it's normal for you to want to make sure you're not making choices based on misinformation.

Let's look at some common myths about mental health, and explain the real facts, so you can better support the children and young people you care for. 

And remember, Kids Helpline is always here to help.

Some common myths & facts of mental health


“If it runs in your family, there’s nothing you can do.”


Genes aren’t destiny. Lots of studies on identical twins (who share the same genes) have shown that lifestyle factors can prevent and help treat mental health issues.  

We know from these studies that genes account for approximately 30-50% of mental illnesses.

This means that we can affect 50-70% of risk through environmental factors, like self-care, social skills and connections with others, skills to manage emotions, etc.


“My child would tell me if they had a mental health issue.”


We know that teens are more likely to tell a friend (rather than a parent). However, according to research, the person most likely to notice mental health warning signs and red flags is a parent. 

Parents are often surprised to learn that their child might not tell them if they were struggling with mental health, self-harming, suicidal, or in some kind of trouble.  

39% of teens told Kids Helpline they wouldn’t tell their parent if something scary happened to them online. 

Why wouldn’t they tell you? The answer might surprise you. While it’s true some teens wouldn’t tell as they’re scared of getting in trouble, many teens wouldn’t tell their parent as they are trying to protect them.

Young people keep their mental health a secret from parents, because they don’t want to cause them stress and worry.

That’s why counsellors recommend talking to your child very openly about topics that make you uncomfortable. Talk about anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide, sex, pornography – or any other topic you have concerns about.

Do it in a way that’s curious. Ask questions about stuff you see in the media, ask them if their friend has ever had an issue like that, etc. 

When you talk about these topics, you give your child ‘permission’ to talk about them with you – and conversations are one of the best forms of prevention and early intervention we have.  

This can also counter ‘help-negation’, which is the name we give to changes in the brain that happen with mental health issues that make people believe nothing and no one can help, and that things will never get better. 


“My partner or other adults in my child’s life thinks that mental health isn’t real, or it’s ‘all in their head’ – and that my child should just ‘take a spoonful of concrete and harden up’.”


That’s a very difficult situation to be in and must be tough to cope with! It can be hard to ‘convince’ people mental health is real, as there are all kinds of complex reasons why people hold – and cling to – those views.  

Often these beliefs are emotional, rather than factual.  That’s why arguing, using facts and logic often doesn’t work – because you’re arguing with feelings, and feelings aren’t necessarily rational. 

It shouldn’t be ‘up to you’ to convince someone otherwise. It’s ok to pick your battles and decide to not have that fight.

However, if you do decide to try and address it, here are some tips:

  • Keep the focus on minimising the harm their opinion might have on your child. Ask them to keep their views to themselves – even if it’s only to prevent conflict or stop things from getting worse. 
  • Be curious and ask questions. Why do they believe that? Listen to understand and listen with empathy. If nothing else, you can role model what emotional support looks like. 
  • Be action/results-focused. Does your partner want your teen to ‘stop moping about in their room all day?’ Get them onboard with strategies by saying, “Hey, saying and doing this with our teen should help them reduce or stop that behaviour. It’s worth a try, don’t you think? Let’s tackle it together!” 
  • Use an analogy they can relate to. Cars need services to prevent problems. People need check-ups and check-ins to prevent problems as well. One type of check-in is psychological, like seeing a mental health professional. This can get you back on track. Or, if you want to get better at a sports skill, you get a trainer or coach. If you want or need to get better at an emotional skill, your coach is a counsellor – because no one is bullet proof or invincible. 
  • If you do want to talk about mental health, it can help to explain that our brain is part of our biology, just like any other body part or organ. Things can happen that affect your heart, or your bowel – and things can happen that affect your brain. Because your brain controls your thoughts and behaviour, anything that affects your brain for the worse can affect your thoughts and behaviours. We call some of those things, ‘mental illnesses’.

Help is available

You don't have to know everything about mental health to be there for your child. Professional support is available to help you.

Here are some more counselling and crisis support options:

This content was last reviewed 14/03/2024

Was this information useful?

Help us by rating this page:

Thanks for your feedback!

Thanks for your feedback!

Talking helps! We’re here for your kids.

No problem is too big or too small.
We're here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week