Welcome Home

Mental Illness Overview

What is Mental Health?
MentalHealth.gov defines mental health as our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Mental health is the ability to function effectively in daily activities, resulting

in productivity at work and school, experiencing fulfilling relationships, and developing resilience to change and adversity. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescents through adulthood.

What is Mental Illness?
Many people think mental disorders are rare. But in fact, they are common—60 million Americans (1 in 4 adults) experience mental illness in a given year. In addition, 1 in 10 children lives with a serious mental or emotional disorder.

A mental illness is a disease causing mild to significant disturbances in thinking, behavior, and/or emotion resulting in an inability to cope with ordinary life challenges and routines. According to Mental Health America there are more than 200 classified forms for mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder.

As with other health conditions, mental illnesses are often physical as well emotional and psychological. They may be caused by reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination on these. With the proper care and treatment, many people learn to cope with their illness and continue functioning in their daily lives. Mental illness is real and highly treatable.

Triggering Events
It’s important to be aware of life events and circumstances that can elicit a mental health crisis or mental illness. Several common triggers for mental health challenges are:
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Divorce or separation
  • Any major transition—new home, new school, new job, etc.
  • Traumatic life experiences—living through a natural disaster, rape, abuse, war, car accident, death of a loved one, etc.
  • Teasing or bullying
  • Positive events that have an adverse reaction or a negative impact

Possible Signs of Mental Illness
Identifying the difference between typical behaviors and signs of mental illness can be challenging. Below are early warning signs that may indicate the onset of mental illness. According to Mental Health America, it is especially important to pay attention to sudden changes in thoughts and behaviors. When a combination of these changes occurs at the same time it may indicate a problem that should be addressed. The symptoms below should not be due to recent substance abuse or other medical conditions. Mental Health America identifies these signs below in children, adolescents and adults:

In Adults, Young Adults and Adolescents:
  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

In Older Children and Pre-Adolescents:
  • Substance Abuse
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Changes in ability to manage responsibilities—at home and/or at school
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or
    thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In Younger Children
  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e., refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums