What is Mental Illness?
Mental illnesses include such
and other severe and persistent
mental illnesses that affect the brain. These disorders can
profoundly disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, moods, ability to
relate to others and capacity for coping with the demands of life.
Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or
income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness,
lack of character, or poor upbringing.
- Mental illnesses are
biologically based brain disorders. They cannot be overcome
through "will power" and are not related to a person's "character"
- Mental disorders fall along a
continuum of severity. The most serious and disabling conditions
affect five to ten million adults (2.6 – 5.4%) and three to five
million children ages five to seventeen (5 – 9%) in the United
- Mental illnesses are treatable.
Most people with serious mental illness need medication to help
control symptoms, but also rely on supportive counseling,
self-help groups, assistance with housing, vocational
rehabilitation, income assistance and other community services in
order to achieve their highest level of recovery.
- Mental disorders are the leading
cause of disability in North
America, Europe and, increasingly, in the world. By 2020, Major
Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the
world for women and children.
- Mental illnesses strike
individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence
and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and
the old are especially vulnerable.
- Without treatment the
consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are
staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse,
homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted
lives; The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than
100 billion dollars each year in the United States.
- The best treatments for serious
mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90
percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and
improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and
psychosocial treatments and supports;
- Early identification and
treatment is of vital importance. By getting people the treatment
they need early, recovery is accelerated and the brain is
protected from further harm related to the course of illness.
- Stigma erodes confidence that
mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. We have
allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to
erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective
treatment and recovery. It is time to take these barriers down.