What is Mental Health?
An estimated 48 million people in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders every year. Approximately 21 million people experience major depressive disorder, 9 million have post-traumatic stress disorder, and 7 million are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Disturbances to a person’s mental wellbeing can have a range of negative consequences, such as diminished functioning in society and impoverishment, premature mortality, and risk of suicide. If you are reading this article because a friend or family member is struggling with a mental illness, here are some ways how you can help them.
A Further LookAccording to the World Health Organization, a mental health definition is that mental health is a state of well-being in which a person can be aware of their abilities, deal with the stresses of life, stay productive, and contribute to their community. Mental health can change throughout a person’s life in response to various factors, including stress, trauma, and loss. Mental health often falls into one of two categories: positive mental health and negative mental health. Positive mental health refers to an individual’s capacity for emotions such as love, happiness, or fulfillment, whereas negative mental health refers to emotions such as depression, anxiety, or anger.
Defining Mental IllnessNow that we’ve discussed mental health, you might be wondering, “What is mental illness?” Well, mental illness is a term that refers to emotional distress, the disturbance of thought processes or patterns, and an inability to function that may or may not be associated with the use of alcohol or other drugs. When talking about mental illness definitions, mental health problems are sometimes called mental disorders, which can affect mood, thought patterns, and behavior. Examples of mental illnesses include anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, and mood disorders. Mental disorders can affect people of any age, background, or intelligence. They may be occasional or long-lasting. Generally, a mental health illness becomes serious when it makes a person miserable and causes problems in their daily life.
Statistics on Mental Disorders
Here are some statistics on mental disorders according to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders.1
- Mental health disorders are some of the leading causes of disability in the U.S.
- Some people may also suffer from more than one disorder. For instance, depression tends to co-occur with substance abuse disorders and anxiety disorders. In 2020, 6.7 % of U.S. adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness.
- Women are two times more likely to suffer from major depression than men.
The Impact of Mental HealthAccording to the National Alliance on Mental Health, these are some statistics about mental health and mental illnesses2
- In 2020, 21% of all U.S. adults, or 1 in 5 adults, experienced a mental illness. That’s equivalent to 52.9 million people.
- In 2020, 5.6% of all U.S. adults, or 1 in 20 adults, experienced a serious mental illness. That’s a total of 14.2 million people.
- Of all U.S. youth aged 6 to 17 years old, 1 out of every 6 of them suffers from a mental health disorder each year.
- About 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14, with 75% of all lifetime mental illnesses having an onset by age 24.
- In 2020, 46.2% of U.S. adults with mental illness and 64.5% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness received treatment.
- The average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is approximately 11 years.
- It is reported that 37.4% of males receive treatment for mental illnesses, which is less than the 51.2% of females who receive treatment.
- The most common mental health conditions among U.S. adults are as follows:
- Anxiety disorders account for 19.1% of U.S. adults.
- Major depressive disorder affects 8.4% of people.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder impacts 3.5% of adults.
- Bipolar disorder affects 2.8% of all U.S. adults.
What Impacts Mental Health?Many factors contribute to the onset of mental health disorders, including these issues:
- Biological factors, such as brain chemistry or genes
- Family history of mental health issues
- Life experiences, such as abuse or trauma
- A person’s lifestyle habits, including physical activity, and diet
Types of Mental Health Disorders
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are many different types of mental disorders. The mental illness list is very long, but today, we will cover the following types of mental health disorders.
Anxiety disorders are one of the many types of mental illness. They are part of a group of conditions that include panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety is an overwhelming experience that is characterized by physical symptoms such as a racing heart and dizziness that results from the anticipation of something fear-inducing happening.
Mood Disorders Like Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder
A mood disorder is a mental health class that broadly describes all types of depression and bipolar disorders. Some of the most common symptoms that people may experience include the following:
- Excessive sadness
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Recurring thoughts about death or suicide
- Weight gain or loss
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Racing thoughts
Eating disorders are a type of mental illness that causes someone to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Someone with an eating disorder may overeat or eat too little, leading to extreme weight loss and other health problems. Eating disorders can also cause heart problems and other serious medical conditions.
Personality disorders are mental health conditions that typically involve long-term patterns of behavior that can cause distress and problems functioning in different areas of life. Some personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, involve a pattern of unstable relationships, distorted self-image, and reckless impulsivity. Other personality disorders, such as schizotypal personality disorder, involve a pattern of constricted social interactions, odd beliefs or perceptual experiences, and extreme discomfort with being close with others.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a mental health issue that may develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event such as military combat, terrorist acts, natural disasters, serious accidents, or physical and sexual assaults. Signs of PTSD include the following:
- Flashbacks to the original event
- Emotional numbness
- Inability to remember key details about what happened
Psychotic Disorders Including Schizophrenia
Psychotic disorders are mental illnesses that cause abnormal thoughts and perceptions. These can include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, like constantly talking, and disorganized behavior, like appearing to be disconnected the world. The most common types of psychoses include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, mood disorders with psychotic features, and delusional disorders.
Causes of Mental Health Disorders
Although the exact causes of mental health disorders are not known, research has shown that a combination of several factors contributes to the development of these disorders.
The abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits or pathways can be one cause of mental health disorders. Moreover, injury to or defects in specific brain areas is also linked to mental conditions. Apart from brain chemistry, genetics is another biological factor contributing to the onset of mental health disorders.
So, the answer to the question, “Is mental illness genetic?” is that it can be. Individuals who have a family member with a history of mental disorders are more likely to develop a disorder themselves.
A person who has experienced severe psychological trauma as a child is more likely to develop a mental health disorder. Other psychological factors include neglect, poor ability to relate to others, and the loss of a parent.
A person who is susceptible to developing a mental health disorder is more likely to develop a disorder if they are exposed to certain environmental stressors. Some of these stressors include dysfunctional family life, feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, loneliness, social or cultural expectations, death or divorce, and substance abuse.
Risk Associated with Poor Mental Health
There are many risks associated with poor mental health. One major risk is the risk of impoverishment, as many people with mental health disorders have difficulties in securing or maintaining work and income. People dealing with psychological disorders often deal with unemployment, debt, and poverty.
A person with a mental health disorder is at a higher risk of suffering from disability and premature mortality from other illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, and other chronic conditions.3
Moreover, those who suffer from mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression, are more likely to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol than those who do not suffer from such disorders. Individuals who have mental illness may also be more likely to commit suicide than others.
Here are some other statistics according to research:
- Most people who have died by suicide have suffered from mental disorders.4
- 48% of people with depression reported lifetime suicidal ideation, and 16% reported a lifetime suicide attempt.4
- 22% of people who had been victims of rape had attempted suicide.5
- Approximately 27% of people with PTSD have also attempted suicide at some point in their life.6
How Do I Know if Someone Has a Mental Health Problem?
Mental health is an important topic that needs to be discussed more. It is a major concern in today’s society. Many people do not know how to aid someone who might have a mental health problem, and people who do have a mental health problem often feel isolated and unsupported.
How Can I Help?There are many different ways to help someone who is presenting with signs of mental illness. You can offer your friend or family member a listening ear, assist them with practical tasks like cooking and cleaning, or even be there for them when they are feeling down. You can also help them find a qualified mental health professional and make an appointment. If your loved one or friend has attempted to harm themselves or is considering doing so, take them to the hospital or call for emergency help.
How Do I Know When to Help?The signs of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances, and other factors. Some examples of common signs of mental illness that affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviors include these:
- Feelings of sadness
- Excessive feelings of fear and guilt
- Extreme mood changes
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Inability to concentrate
- Detachment from reality, paranoia, or hallucinations
- Difficulty dealing with everyday problems or stress
- Substance use problems
- Changes in eating habits
- Low sex drive
- Anger, hostility, or violence
- Suicidal ideation
Talking About Mental Health
Talking to your loved ones and friends about their mental health can be a great way to provide them with the support and guidance they desperately need. In fact, talking about mental health can lead to earlier detection of a mental health disorder, earlier treatment, greater understanding, and compassion.
How To Discuss Mental Health
Discussing mental health may feel uncomfortable and awkward for many people. There is a serious mental illness stigma that causes a lot of people to steer clear of conversations about mental illnesses, but it’s important to fight the mental illness stigma.
It is possible that your loved one or friend who is dealing with a mental health issue wants to talk about their problems but does not know how to initiate a conversation. Consider starting a conversation to address your concerns and ask them a few questions about how they feel. Choose one or two questions from the list below to see how they respond.
- How have you been?
- Have you been eating and sleeping?
- Is there anything you want to talk about?
- Can I support you in seeking treatment if that’s something you are open to or want to do?
- Would you be willing to talk to someone?
- What can I do for you?
- When is the best time to check in with you again?
Tips For Talking About Mental Illness
Here are some tips to bear in mind when talking about mental health problems with a loved one or friend.
Practice Active Listening
Ask open-ended questions to learn how your loved one or friend feels.
Do Not Judge Them
Show your support by putting your personal opinions aside and simply listening to what they have to say.
Do Not Compare Them To You
Although you might feel tempted to share your personal story and how you dealt with a similar situation, avoid making comparisons. The person might feel like their pain is not valid.
Ask What You Can Do To Help
Even if they say they do not need your help, suggest a few things you can help them with without being too pushy. For instance, you could offer to cook them a meal, help them with grocery shopping, or pick up their dry cleaning.
Offer Help and Suggest Professional Support
If you believe your loved one or friend needs professional help, encourage them to speak with a mental health professional. Consider offering them mental illness help from a qualified provider.
Respond To Their Reactions
Slow down or retreat if the person becomes confused or upset.
What To Avoid
Statements To Avoid
It can be difficult to pick the right words to say to a loved one or friend suffering from a mental health condition. Avoid using the following statements:
- Don’t be insane!
- Calm down!
- Therapy is for people who are weak.
- Things will be better in the morning.
- Stop acting like a crazy person.
- It is all in your head.
- Come on; things could be worse!
- Snap out of it!
- But you have a great life.
- It is normal to feel a little down or moody or OCD sometimes.
- It is all part of God’s plan.
Trigger words and phrases are those that cause an adverse emotional reaction. The person might feel like they are being attacked, blamed, controlled, hurt, or judged, leading to them feeling overwhelmed, scared, unloved, and weak.
Some words you should avoid using when discussing mental health problems with your loved one or friend include the following statements:
- Avoid using insensitive words like mental, schizo, loonie, or nutter.
- Always put the person first, not the disease. Don’t say “Jane is schizophrenic.” Instead, say “Jane has schizophrenia.”
- Don’t say the terms mentally disabled, mentally handicapped, or mentally unstable.
- Don’t call someone words such as an addict, a junkie, or a drunk.
- Don’t use terms that suggest pity such as suffering from, victim of, or afflicted with.
- Say statements such as “Jane has a history of…” or “Jane lives with….”
Things To Avoid Doing
- Talking a lot, loudly, or rapidly
- Showing signs of hostility
- Making jokes about their situation or being sarcastic
- Patronizing them or being condescending
- Assuming things about their situation
- Criticizing or blaming them
The Dangers of Mental Health Disorders
How To Respond in a Crisis
People dealing with psychological disorders often experience a crisis, such as feeling suicidal. In such scenarios, it is crucial you stay calm and respond properly. Here are some strategies you can use to help your loved one or friend:
- Actively listen without being judgmental.
- Ask them what you can do to help.
- Do not confront them or raise your voice.
- Encourage them to seek professional help.
- If they hurt themselves, provide appropriate aid.
- Take the person to the hospital.
- Call for emergency help if the situation becomes life-threatening.
How To Respond
If a loved one or friend tells you they have suicidal thoughts, the most important thing to do is remain calm. Just because someone has these thoughts does not mean they are in immediate danger. Listen to what they have to say and ask some follow-up questions such as, “What do you need to do to feel safe?”
Offer reassurance that help is available and having these thoughts means it is time to seek help from a mental health professional. If the person is in immediate danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, these are good tips to implement:
- Do not leave them alone.
- Remove any objects they can harm themselves with as best as possible.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
- Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free.
- Encourage them to seek help or suggest that they contact their doctor and therapist.
Mental Health Resources and Hotlines
Mental Health Services
Mental health professionals specialize in the treatment and management of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They might be psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, family counselors, or marriage and family therapists.
You can gain access to mental health professionals either at a hospital or at a mental and behavioral health treatment center. They provide mental health services for a range of disorders, including bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, severe anxiety disorders, addiction, and more.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an organization that provides free, confidential, 24/7 assistance to people in suicidal crisis. The Lifeline also offers support for family members and friends impacted by someone else’s suicidal thoughts. Call 1-800-273-8255 for help anytime or chat with a counselor at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
Here are some additional resources:
- Emergency: 911
- Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org
- Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7).
- Self-Harm Mental Illness Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT (1-800-366-8288)
Mental Health Rehabilitation Programs
Inpatient care provides intensive treatment for patients suffering from mental illness. In a hospital setting, a patient can get the best possible care without the stress from work, family, and other responsibilities that might interfere with their recovery.
Inpatient care for psychological disorders can provide the stabilization needed in early recovery from the severe mental chaos caused by anxiety. Patients can attend inpatient care at mental and behavioral health treatment centers where they will receive an individualized treatment plan tailored to their unique situation.
Outpatient care may be a good option for people with mild or moderate symptoms who do not need constant monitoring or supervision. Intensive outpatient programs can offer the necessary long-term support for sustainable recovery from any mental illness.
Types of Therapies
Mental illness treatment at mental and behavioral health treatment centers typically consists of the following types of therapies:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Interpersonal therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
Holistic HealthHolistic health is a type of therapy that focuses on a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It pays attention to the interconnectedness of the human body and mind and how this affects a person’s overall health. A holistic approach to health and wellness will often include a combination of natural therapies, such as acupuncture or massage therapy, alongside more conventional medicine.
Recovery With a Mission for Michael
A Mission for Michael is a mental and behavioral health treatment center based in Southern California. We employ a range of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, physicians, psychologists, and nurses, with a two-to-one client-to-staff ratio.
Some of the treatment options we offer include primary inpatient care, evening outpatient program, and transitional living. There is support for all types of mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, severe anxiety disorders, and addiction, with a focus on evidence-based care. Patients at our center receive individual care 24/7 while being overseen by a team of clinicians who either have doctorates or master’s degrees.
We offer a range of different treatments for mental health disorders, such as the following:
- Full psychiatric evaluations by a highly-experienced licensed medical professional
- Psychopharmacological treatment
- Mental health interventions
- Family therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT
- Self-soothing coping skills