1. What does it mean to have a mental illness?
  2. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental illness is described as a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, or mood. Such conditions may affect someone's ability to relate to others and function each day.

  3. What causes mental illness?
  4. Often there is not a specific cause for most mental illnesses. Research has indicated that individuals may be predisposed to a mental illness due to genetics, a chemical imbalance in one's brain, environmental factors, or trauma.

  5. Can mental illness be treated?
  6. Even in the most severe cases, mental illness can be treatable. The most prominent treatments are usually therapy and medication, but a combination of the two can often produce the best results. Finding a therapist and discussing the appropriate treatment for your situation can be helpful. Be patient with the process--different treatments will work for different people, so it may take some time to find the treatment option that is best for you.

  7. Can I be cured of my mental illness?
  8. Historically, there have been a variety of opinions regarding whether or not a mental illness can be cured. Theories aside, mental health professionals are confident that with the appropriate treatment and coping strategies, many individuals can reduce or eliminate their symptoms and live a normal, satisfying life.

  9. When do emotional struggles become a mental illness?
  10. When a mental health concern begins to interfere with your ability to think, plan, work, sleep, eat, or relate well to others, you will likely meet criteria for a mental illness diagnosis.

  11. How do I bring up the topic of my mental health struggles with my parents or partner or family?
  12. Bringing up the topic of your struggle with mental health can be difficult. Who do you tell? When do you tell them? How much do you tell them? Consider your relationship with these individuals and decide what your purpose is for telling them. Often times, struggling individuals want to explain what is happening, what kind of support they need, and why they have been behaving a certain way. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) has developed a helpful article on disclosing your mental illness. You may want to consider reading it before deciding how to proceed. (For more information, see this website)

  13. When do I seek professional help for myself or a friend?
  14. Typically, the general rule is to seek help when symptoms begin to adversely impact health, an everyday routine, and/or interpersonal relationships. However, there is no exact time to seek help; some individuals prefer to get support as soon as they notice symptoms, and others prefer to wait to seek help until symptoms become more frequent and intense. Keep in mind that it is easier to resolve issues the sooner you receive support. However, professional help works best when you want help and feel comfortable receiving it, whatever the timing may be!

  15. Why is it so hard for people to seek help when they have a mental illness?
  16. Fear, stigma, and not knowing how to get help make it difficult for individuals struggling with mental health to seek out assistance. It is estimated that 1 out of 4 Americans have struggled with mental health issues but only 25% of them pursued help. At times, an individual may avoid assistance because seeking help requires admitting to having a mental illness. Unfortunately, that approach seldom works. By not getting help or waiting to get help, the illness often becomes worse and the recovery process takes much longer.

  17. If I suffer from mental illness, am I dangerous?
  18. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has studied the issue of mental health and violence. It was determined that the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.

  19. If I seek help from a psychologist for my mental illness, does this mean that there is something inherently wrong with me?
  20. No. Many people seek out psychologists to discuss issues important to them, understand themselves better, or learn new coping techniques. Let's face it: everyone reaches points in his/her life when a fresh perspective is needed. A psychologist can help you understand why you are worried and provide you with strategies to manage the symptoms that are concerning to you.

  21. Why are physical illnesses seen as more credible than mental illnesses?
  22. Unlike physical illnesses, mental illnesses are not visible, so they are typically harder to notice and diagnose. Many people believe that mental illnesses are not real because you cannot see them. However, mental illnesses are real and no less difficult to cope with than physical illnesses. Physical illnesses are difficult to endure, but mental illnesses are too, and they should hold the same amount of credibility as their physical counterparts.

  23. Why don't people take mental illness seriously?
  24. People don't want to believe that mental illness exists because they are scared that there is no distinct or easy cure or they think mental illness is not credible. It is important to study and seek an understanding of each illness so that we can encourage and provide support for those struggling with mental illness.

  25. What can I do to keep mentally healthy and avoid mental illness?
  26. Enjoying mental health means having a sense of wellbeing, being able to function effectively during everyday life, making decisions in a timely fashion, eating and sleeping well, and feeling confident in your abilities to rise to a challenge when the opportunity arises. Just like your physical health, there are actions that you can take to increase your mental health:

  27. To what extent do genetics predetermine mental illness?
  28. It is difficult to know. However, researchers continue to study this subject. The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) lists the likelihood of genetic predisposition in each section for a specific disorder (Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar, etc.). You might use the DSM-V as your resource to obtain the most accurate and current information concerning genetic predisposition. Many libraries have the DSM-V in their reference book section. Keep in mind that the word "predisposition" does not mean it is a guarantee that you will inherit a specific gene and have the disorder. Predisposition means that there may be biological factors between parents and offspring that could produce similar symptoms based on the environment of each individual.