Overview of Mental Illness

What is a mental illness?  A mental illness has been defined as “a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning (NAMI).”  Just like heart disease or diabetes, a mental illness is a medical condition.  I repeat a “medical condition.”  Usually with mental illness the person suffering can see a change, if not, total interference in their ability to handle their everyday life.  Mental illness does not discriminate by age, race, religion or income.  Therefore, it is important to remember that having a mental illness does not make you weak or mean you’ve had a poor/bad background.  Seeking treatment and getting the support you need is important with all illnesses; the same is true for your mental illness.  The stigma has to end and it starts with awareness.


  • Some serious mental illnesses include:
    • major depression,
    • schizophrenia,
    • bipolar disorder,
    • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),
    • posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)   
    • More safe and effective treatments exist today than ever before. As a result, studies have shown that many people with mental illness recover.
  • Each year, roughly 57 million Americans will be affected by one or more mental illnesses. Of these:
    • Roughly 40 million will suffer from some type of anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia, or social phobia.
    • Roughly 18 million will suffer from some form ofdepression
    • Roughly 2.6 million will suffer from bipolar disorder
    • Roughly 2.4 million will suffer from schizophrenia


  • In fact, rates of successful treatment for mental illnesses are often as high as or even higher than for common medical conditions, such as heart disease. For example:
    • Panic disorder has a successful treatment rate of 70-90%.
    • Depression has a successful treatment rate of over 80%.
    • Schizophrenia has a successful treatment rate of roughly 60%.


  • Many people with mental illnesses also lead productive and active professional and social lives.

The above facts come from the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) and Net Wellness website.


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