Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional (acute) or long-lasting (chronic) and affect how you relate to others and function each day.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, re- late to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. A person diagnosed with a mental illness can also experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.
Why is mental health important for overall health?
Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. Mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic physical conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.
Can your mental health change over time?
Yes, it’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors. When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. For example, if someone is working long hours, caring for an ill relative or experiencing economic hardship they may experience poor mental health.
What causes mental illness?
There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as
• Early adverse life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse (for ex- ample, child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence, etc.).
• Experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as cancer or diabetes.
• Biological factors, such as genes or chemical imbalances in the brain.
Get treatment. Even though you may be reluctant to admit you need treatment, treatment can provide relief by identifying what's wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
Don't let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn't just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
Don't isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your needs. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
Don't equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying "I'm bipolar," say "I have bipolar disorder." Instead of calling yourself "a schizophrenic," say "I have schizophrenia."
Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and programs on the internet. There are also many state and federal agencies/programs that offer support for people with mental illness. Look on USA.gov. for more.
Speak out against mental illness stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.
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