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Mental Illness: What It Is and How to Help

Mental illnesses isn't something that is commonly talked about; instead, people brush it aside, thinking that it doesn't matter. Whether people realize it or not, mental illness is something that affects everyone, and people should know more about it. It could be that someone has a mental illness and doesn't know it, or a friend has it and needs help getting better. Whatever the case, this article will explain what mental illness is, and how to help.

Mental illness isn’t something that is commonly talked about; instead, people brush it aside, thinking that it doesn’t matter. But whether people realize it or not, mental illness is something that affects everyone, and people should know more about it. It could be that someone has a mental illness and doesn’t know it, or a friend has it and needs help getting better. Whatever the case, this article will explain what mental illness is, and how to help.

To start, mental illness is defined as a wide range of conditions that affect mood, thinking, and behavior. Mental illness is also more common then one would think.

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) statistics (1):
    • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year (18.5% or 43.8 million)
    • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experience a mental disorder that substantially interferes with their daily life (9.8 million or 4.0%).
    • Approximately 1 in 5 youths, ages 13-18 (21.4%) experience a severe mental disorder at some point during that span of time.
    • Among the 20.2 million Americans that experience a substance abuse disorder (50.5%), 10.2 million adults had a co-occurring mental illness.

So, for something that happens so commonly, why is it that it isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be? People will talk about physical illnesses such as a cold or a hangover without a second thought, but mental illnesses are rarely discussed. Well, part of this phenomenon is that people dislike talking about mental illnesses because it makes them feel vulnerable (2). Another part is due to the fact that psychology is fairly new. An article from the World Psychiatric Association (3) states:

“Although references to mental health as a state can be found in the English language well before the 20th century, technical references to mental health as a field or discipline are not found before 1946.”

This shows that mental health is a fairly new thing, and people haven’t become accustomed to it being a normal thing, making it uncomfortable to talk about. However, this is exactly why it needs to be talked about more. People need to be aware of mental illness, and how common it is to reduce the stigma associated with it. Just like any other organ in a body, a brain can get sick as well.

mental-health-2
Image by Gordon Johnson

There are many types of mental illnesses, as the brain is a complex organ. However, the next few mental illnesses might be familiar.

Common Mental Illnesses (4):

  • Clinical Depression
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Dementia
  • Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Drug/Alcohol Abuse

Even Substance Abuse can be classified as a mental disorder, and it goes hand-in-hand with other mental illnesses, according to a National Survey done on Drug Use and Mental Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (5).

There is no one reason why a person contradicts a mental illness; there are many causes of mental illnesses.

Causes (6):

  • Genetics: Could be that someone is just more susceptible to developing a mental disorder if their family has a past of mental illness, but that does not mean that they are guaranteed to develop a mental illness.
  • Psychology: Could be that in someone’s past, a traumatic event occurred, causing them to develop a mental illness.
  • Environment: It could be that a dysfunctional family, a change in environment, or some other stressful environment can cause mental illness.

So, what is there to do about it? How can people help? Well, one simple answer has already been addressed, and that is communication. Simply talking about mental illness can lessen the stigma towards it and may raise awareness to someone who didn’t know they had it. However, if someone does have a mental illness, they need professional help. Getting professional treatment for mental illness does work. 8 out of 10 people suffering from a mental illness can effectively return to their normal activities if they receive appropriate treatment (7).

Treatments:

  • Medication: It could be that your mental illness is due to your body not producing enough of a certain hormone, or some other bodily issue where you need medication to remedy your mental illness.
  • Therapy: It could be that a specific therapy plan is needed to help you work through your mental illness. Mental Health in America (8) states that 80% of people treated for depression improve. 90% success rate for treatment for panic disorders.
  • A change in environment and positive influences can also treat mental illness.

An example of how the final treatment works is a study done by Lee Robins (9). She did a study on American soldiers in Vietnam and found that 20% of soldiers were addicted to Heroin. After getting proper treatment for the physical addiction, the soldiers addicted returned home to the U.S., and only 5% of the addicts relapsed in drug abuse. That means that 95% of the previous addicts remained clean after going home.

Talking more about mental health is a good thing. It could lead to learning new information. It also can lead to people becoming more comfortable about mental illness or pushing them to seek professional help. Whatever your reasoning is, spread the word about what mental illness it, and how to help.


Resources:

(1) “NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.” Home, www.nami.org/.

(2) “Why Don’t We All Talk More About Mental Health?” Circle Care Center, 2017, circlecarecenter.org/popular-stories/why-don-t-we-all-talk-more-about-mental-health.

(3) “About the World Psychiatric Association.” World Psychiatric Association, www.wpanet.org/.

(4) Grohol, John. “Mental Disorders & Conditions – DSM.” Psych Central, 2018, psychcentral.com/disorders/.

(5) “NSDUHNational Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Veterans and Military Families | SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 18 July 2018, www.samhsa.gov/data/data-we-collect/nsduh-national-survey-drug-use-and-health.

(6 & 7) “Mental Illness: Learn the Definition, Tests and Statistics.” MedicineNet, www.medicinenet.com/mental_illness/article.htm.

(8) “Mental Health Treatments.” Mental Health America, 20 Aug. 2015, www.mentalhealthamerica.net/types-mental-health-treatments.

(9) “This Vietnam Study About Heroin Reveals The Most Important Thing About Kicking Addictions.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 3 Jan. 2012, www.businessinsider.com/vietnam-study-addictions-2012-1.

 

 

 

 

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