Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mental Illness

Mental illness affects 1 in 6 adults, yet there is a heavy stigma associated with this group of disorders.  Why should such a common group of afflictions be so frowned upon?  Many people lack knowledge about mental illness; they may see it as a sign of weakness, or something to cover up.  Bring Change to Mind is an organization that fights the stigma associated with mental illness. Visit http://www.bringchange2mind.org/ to learn more.
Here are some of the more common misconceptions about mental illness.

  • "Children don't get mental illnesses.'  This couldn't be further from the truth.  1 in 10 children have a mental illness, including depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
  • "People with mental illnesses are violent."  While some violent people are mentally ill, few mentally ill people are violent.  Most people with mental illness are shy or withdrawn, and are more likely to be the victims of violence. 
  • "Mental illness is a sign of weakness."  Mental illness has few to no known causes and can affect anybody, in any walk of life.  It is not a sign of weakness.  
  • "Mentally ill people can't get better."  With early and appropriate treatment, many people with mental illnesses go on to lead normal lives, and most can't be picked out from people without mental illnesses.  It is, however, crucial that mental illness be treated promptly.  This is a problem in our nation, where mental health care insurance coverage is extremely lacking and services can easily cost thousands of dollars without coverage. 
And here are some of the more common mental illnesses:
  • Bipolar disorder: characterized by extreme mood swings, from manic (happy, excitable and euphoric) to depressive.  Often also associated with racing thoughts, irritability and agitation/anxiety.
  • Schitzophrenia: affects 1.1% of the adult populations.  Characterized by visual and auditory hallucinations, garbled thoughts and speech and disorganized thoughts.  Not the same as split personality.  
  • Depression: The most common mental illness, and while it is one of the moore treatable, it is still very serious.  Causes long term saddness, anxiety, pessimism, odd sleeping or eating patterns, fatigue, and/or suicidal thoughts/ actions.
  • PTSD: a rection to a traumatic event or expirience.  Most commonly associated with soldiers, but also occurs in any other populations, including seriously ill patients and their families, or victims of abuse or other violent crimes.  Characterized by extreme anxiety, sleep problems, flashbacks, nightmares and fear.  
  • Anxiety Disorders: a group of mental illnesses, including generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorders, OCD and social anxiety disorder.  Characterized by extreme bouts of anxiety and nervousness, which may or may not be directed at a specific situation or item, and can cause a panic attack, in which anxieety manifests itself into somatic symptoms (a panic attack).
Be open to learning about mental illness and be willign to discuss it openly.  With better understanding, better treatments will be developed and we will be able to help those who have mental illnesses to live in society.  

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