What is Mental
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The Science of Mental Illness
A National Institute of Health Curriculum for Middle School

Developed by the National Institute of Health, students gain insight into the biological basis of mental illnesses and how scientific evidence and research can help students understand its causes and lead to treatments and, ultimately, cures.

The material is available online as a website or is downloadable for printing. The following six components make up the lesson plan.

1. The Brain: Control Central The brain is the organ that controls feelings, behaviors, and thoughts, and changes in the brainís activity result in long- or short-term changes to these.
2. Whatís Wrong? Mental illnesses such as depression are diseases of the brain.
3. Mental Illness: Could It Happen to Me? Though everyone is at risk, factors such as genetics, environment, and social influences determine a personís propensity to develop a mental illness.
4. Treatment Works! Medications and psychotherapies are among the effective treatments for most mental illnesses.
5. In Their Own Words Mental illnesses affect many aspects of a personís life, but they can be treated so that the individual can function effectively.
6. Youíre the Expert Now Learning the facts about mental illness can dispel misconceptions.

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence is an innovative lesson plan developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness that uses games, posters and other activities to break the silence about Mental Illness in our schools.  These fully scripted lessons for upper elementary, middle school and high school students teach facts about mental illness including:

  • It is biology, not a character flaw, that causes mental illness.

  • Mental illness has never been more treatable.

  • The warning signs of mental illness.

  • How to overcome the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

People keep quiet about mental illness. They don't talk about their brother who hears voices, their mother who stays in bed with depression, or the counting rituals they themselves do before they can leave their house. So our children become hidden victims. Afraid to speak about their illness, or unable to recognize the symptoms, they may deteriorate for years before getting treatment.

Mental illness is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disease in this country and worldwide. One in five people will be struck by mental illness at some point in their lives. Yet there is a deafening silence about it in our schools. Students in health classes learn about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, cancer prevention, and how a healthy lifestyle can prevent cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and other illnesses, but many graduate from high school without ever having had one lesson on mental illness.

BREAKING THE SILENCE was developed for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) as part of their "Campaign to End Discrimination" to end this cycle of ignorance and shame.

To learn about the program, visit the Breaking the Silence website.

To see about getting this program into your classroom or school, phone NAMI-Yolo at (530) 756-8181.