Mental Health Issue Definition   

What is mental illness?

Mental illness is any diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that interferes with or limits a person's ability to live, work, learn, and participate fully in his or her community. Mental illness includes disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and Alzheimer's disease. Mental illness involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person thinks, eats, sleeps, and feels about him/herself. Mental illness is not a sign of personal weakness or lack of willpower. People with a mental illness cannot simply overcome it and get better on their own.

How many people are affected by mental illness?

The U.S. Surgeon General's report on mental health states that about one in five Americans experiences a mental disorder in the course of a year. As a result, millions of adults and children are disabled by mental illness every year. According to The World Health Organization, 450 million people worldwide are affected by mental, neurological, or behavioral problems at any time, and about 873 people die by suicide every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 2 Americans has a diagnosable mental disorder each year, including 44 million adults and 13.7 million children. Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in the U.S. Mental illness affects all people−from every cultural, racial, and ethnic background. A mental illness can occur at any stage of life, from childhood to old age. No community, school, or workplace is untouched by mental illness.

What can be done about mental illness?

Mental illness is treatable, especially when treatment is not delayed. For persons of any age, early detection and treatment can help prevent mental illness from worsening and can improve the individual's chances for full recovery. Therefore, it is critical for a person to seek mental health care when he or she needs it. It is equally important for service providers, friends, and family members to be informed about the symptoms of mental illness and the treatment options available. For more information and resources, http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/consumersurvivor/default.asp.

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