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Mental Illness

What is mental illness?  

Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts or prevents a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing. Mental Illnesses are treatable, and most people who experience mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by participating in an individual treatment plan.

Who can be affected by mental illness?

Mental illness can affect anyone of any age, race, religion, gender, or income. About 25% of American adults experience mental illness. For children ages 8-15, about 13% of people experience mental illness and in adolescents age 13-18, about 20% experience mental illness. 

Why does mental illness occur?

Mental illness can occur for many reasons. Sometimes it’s genetic, but sometimes it can be caused by infections, brain defects or injury, prenatal damage (damage occurring before someone is born), and substance abuse. Sometimes, stressors, like the loss of a loved one, divorce, low self-esteem, sudden change, and social or cultural expectations can be contributing factors. 

I’ve heard that people with mental illness are dangerous…is this true?

The majority of people living with a mental illness are no more likely to be aggressive than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent, and are actually more likely to become a victim of a violent crime. It is likely that you know someone who is dealing with a mental health problem but you just aren’t aware of it because negative stereotypes and myths about mental illness keep people from talking about their mental illness with others.  Many people with mental health problems go to work and school and don’t appear much different than anyone else on the outside.

What happens if a mental illness is not addressed?

Death (suicide), suicidal thoughts, self-harm, substance abuse, and a low quality of life are common results of mental illness that goes unnoticed and untreated. 

Learn More

Video: Ending the stigma of mental illnessFacts and Myths about mental illness Support a friend with mental illness Learn about specific types of mental illness(PDF) Books on this topic