What are mental illnesses/mental disorders? They are health conditions that involve significant changes in thinking, emotion or behavior. They create distress or problems functioning in family, social, school or work activities. Causes are not well understood, but the symptoms are scientifically valid and known.
Mental disorders are divided into three broad categories – adult, childhood, and personality. Mental illnesses are also defined as chronic or adjustment disorders. Chronic means ongoing and lifelong. Examples include some depression and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and psychosis. An adjustment disorder is a response to an identifiable stressor within the past 3 months. Once the stressor or its consequences has ended, the symptoms usually do not persist for more than 6 months. Depressions and anxiety disorders related to death of loved one, birth of child, loss of job are often adjustment disorders.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year. About 10 million adults live with a serious mental illness. One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Approximately 26% of homeless adults live with a serious mental illness, and approximately 24% of state prisoners have a recent history of a mental health issue. One in five persons ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness. 37% of them will drop out of school, and 70% of them will find themselves in the juvenile justice system. 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among persons ages 10-24, and the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Symptoms and signs of mental disorders include feeling sad, excessive worry, withdrawal from friends and activities, inability to cope with daily problems, excessive anger or hostility, alcohol or drug abuse, detachment from reality (hallucinations, delusions), extreme mood changes.
If you or someone you know have any of these symptoms, please see a doctor or a mental health specialist. Suicidal thinking is very serious. Please reach out to someone immediately or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.