FAQs about Mental Illness
Who Is Affected?
Anyone can get a mental illness. It is a health condition that affects thinking, mood and/or behavior. The U.S. Surgeon General has determined that one in five people, or 20% of all individuals, will have symptoms of a diagnosable mental disorder. It occurs regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, education, economic status, or neighborhood.
The World Health Organization pegs mental disorders at 40%of the leading causes of disability for persons age 5 and older. The “Global Burden of Disease” study finds that among developed nations, including the U.S., major depression is the leading cause of disability.
What Are Examples of Mental Illnesses?
Just like common physical conditions, mental illnesses have effective treatments that lead to recovery. Many mental illnesses are believed to have biological causes, just like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but some mental disorders are caused by a person’s environment and experiences. The variety of diagnoses includes:
- Mood disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Social phobia
- Thought disorder
- Eating disorder
- Serious emotional disturbance
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
What Is Stigma?
Psychiatric research reveals that society holds negative attitudes and inaccurate beliefs about people with mental illnesses, perceiving them as unattractive, dangerous, unproductive and unpredictable. Stigma frequently stems from a lack of accurate knowledge, often perpetuated by stereotyped images in the media. Ironically, the media also offer our best hope for eradicating stigma because of its power to educate and influence public opinion.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s 1999 Report on Mental Health identified stigma as one of the major barriers that discourage adults with mental illnesses, and the families of children and adolescents with serious emotional disorders, from seeking treatment. Consequences of discrimination and stigma for people with mental illnesses include lowered self-esteem; disrupted family relationships; and increased difficulty in building community connections, securing housing and obtaining employment.
What Can YOU Do to End Stigma and Discrimination?
1. Share your experience with mental illness. Your story can convey to others that having a mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed about.
2. Help people with mental illness re-enter society. Support their efforts to obtain housing and jobs.
- Respond to false statements about mental illness or people with mental illnesses. Many people have wrong and damaging ideas on the subject. Accurate facts and information may help change both their ideas and actions.
What’s the Outlook?
Research documents that people who have mental illnesses can and do recover and enjoy productive lives. Recovery can mean being able to hold down a job, go back to school, have a close relationship with family and friends, or however an individual defines it. A common theme is a feeling of responsibility for one’s life and a sense of control over one’s problems.
Need a Speaker?
Education is an important aspect of the Campaign Against Stigma and Discrimination. Speaking engagements, presentations and workshops help deliver the message personally to businesses, civic associations, houses of worship, schools and other community organizations. Call 489-2322, ext. 1255 to arrange for a presentation near you.
Additional Programs and Resources that Promote Dignity and Respect
1. ADS Center (Address Discrimination and Stigma Associated with Mental Illness): www.stopstigma.samhsa.gov
2. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness): http://www.nami.org/
3. National Mental Health Awareness Campaign: http://www.nostigma.org/
4. Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law: http://www.bazelon.org/
5. American Psychiatric Association: http://www.healthyminds.org/
6. Mayo Clinic Mental Health: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mental-health/MH00076
7. U.S. Public Health Service: The Surgeon General’s Report: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter1/sec1.html#roots_stigma
Links to Participating Local Agencies: