icons of mental health disorders arranged in a circle surrounding one icon
mental health disorders

Mental illness is a disorder that disrupts a person’s thinking, feelings, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Mental health disorders are not the result of personal weakness or lack of character.

“Ending the Silence”  - NAMI


mental health disorders

  • A mental health disorder is a health condition that changes how a person thinks, feels or acts and causes difficulty in the way he or she lives their life.
  • There doesn't seem to be any single reason as to why people develop mental health problems. Scientists believe that mental illness may be caused by a combination of biology, genes, and stress. But mental health disorders may also occur because of medical problems or substance abuse.
  • These changes or symptoms range from mild to severe.
  • However, to be a disorder, symptoms must significantly interfere with a person's ability to live his or her life in the best way possible.
  • There are many treatments for mental health disorders, including talking with a mental health professional (psychotherapy) and taking prescribed medication.
  • Many people can recover and become symptom-free while others may need to have ongoing treatment.
  • Those who actively participate in their own recovery – by staying on medication, taking care of themselves and connecting with caring people - usually have the best outcomes and often lead successful lives.

We all experience many of the symptoms listed below (e.g., fear • worry • anxiety • sadness • stress). However, when these symptoms last for more than two weeks and interfere with daily life, it is important to seek professional help.

  • ADHD affects the ability to pay attention in a focused way, think clearly, complete tasks and control behaviors. People with ADHD are often forgetful and are easily distracted by sights, sounds, smells and thoughts. There are three general symptoms for ADHD: (1) attention deficit type, (2) hyperactive type, and (3) impulsive type.
  • Anxiety is defined by overwhelming feelings of uneasiness, worry and fear about everyday events. These feelings often interfere with participation in activities. A person with an anxiety disorder usually can't relax. They may have trouble sleeping and concentrating.
  • Major Depression is a mood disorder marked by intense, long-lasting sadness (two weeks or more) and a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. Symptoms can include persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings. A person with major depression may also experience feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.
  • Bipolar Disorder is a serious mood disorder that causes dramatic mood swings from severe lows (depression) to extreme highs (mania). Individuals can also experience periods of being symptom-free.
  • Eating Disorders are mental health disorders that profoundly disrupt a person's ability to regulate eating patterns, resulting in problems with health and happiness. Examples of eating disorders include bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. People with eating disorders try to manage emotions by focusing too much on food, weight and body image. Causes are very complex and may include genetics, family dynamics, peer pressure and a need to be in control over things happening in a person's life. Low self-esteem, perfectionism and media emphasis on weight may all play a part.
  • Stress Related Disorders (OCD & PTSD) - Each has different symptoms, but all include overwhelming fear, worry and/or stress about everyday events. A person with stress-related disorder may have trouble sleeping or relaxing. They may avoid interacting with others. People with OCD have obsessions (thoughts) and compulsions (behaviors). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a response to a catastrophic or life-threatening event such as a car accident, natural disaster, witness to violence or war.
  • Schizophrenia is not a split in personality! Rather, it is a severe thought disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly and sense the world the way others do. A person with schizophrenia also may have difficulty managing emotions, making good decisions, or relating to others. Symptoms can include psychotic episodes (break from reality) such as hallucinations or delusions.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED…  When these symptoms last more than 2 weeks and interfere with daily life, it is important to seek professional help.

  • 1 in 5 has a mental illness (MHA).
  • 20% of all youth, ages 13-18, live with a mental health condition.
  • 50% all adults with a mental illness experienced symptoms by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
  • 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental illness.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for young people, ages 10-24 (CDC).
  • 90% of individuals who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness.
    • Other risks for suicide can include… Recent tragedy or loss, agitation and sleep deprivation, isolation, prolonged stress, substance abuse, intoxication, access to firearms, serious or chronic medical illness, gender, history of trauma or abuse, or family history of suicide. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk.


Mental health disorders affect between 20 to 25 percent of all people in the world. 

Unfortunately, without treatment, these disorders can seriously disrupt and damage the lives of all affected, regardless of money, education, or ethnicity.

Look at the image below. Consider which of these nine youth might have a mental health disorder. (Answer: Any one of them…)

Know the five signs that may mean someone is in emotional pain & might need help...

Adolescence is a time of many changes. There are many stresses that adolescent students in junior and senior high school must face – social pressures regarding sex, drugs, and alcohol, as well as pressure to excel academically and/or athletically. It can be difficult to know what is a healthy response to stress and when a response to stress may be a symptom of a mental health disorder.


1. Mental illness is not something they can just “get over.”
It takes time, treatment and acceptance to manage a mental health condition. A mental illness develops in the brain, making it very complex. It’s not something that’s “all in their heads” or a problem they can “snap out of” (although, they wish they could!).

2. It also doesn’t make them “crazy.”
You wouldn’t call someone with cancer “insane” or “crazy,” so the same courtesy should be extended to someone with a mental health condition. Mental illness is just as important as physical illness. Here are a few other terms that should also be avoided.

3. Some days are better than others.
One day they’ll feel excellent, but the next day getting out of bed is a victory in itself. And they never know when it’ll happen.

4. Their mood isn’t because of you.
It can feel like they’re upset with you, but please know it isn’t personal. Many mental health conditions are characterized by mood swings, including feelings of anger, depression and mania.

5. It’s manageable...
Through therapy, through medication, through exercise, through group support... the list is endless. However, it’s important to remember that treatment is not “one size fits all,” so what works for your cousin’s co-worker may not work for them. And that’s OK.

6. ...But some days they don’t feel like fighting it.
And that can feel like the absolute worst. Experts recommend encouraging them to go to their appointments or whatever is necessary in their treatment process. Don’t give up on them on the days they’ve given up on themselves.

7. There’s a negative stereotype associated with their conditions.
There’s a large stigma attached to mental health disorders. Only 25 percent of people with a mental illness feel that others are compassionate or understanding of their condition. Your compassion means more than you’ll ever know.

8. Hugs help.
So do phone calls. Or texts. Or ice cream. Or anything that just lets them know that they’re not alone.”It may look incredibly bleak for them right now,” Adam Kaplin, an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins, previously told HuffPost. “It’s helpful to remind them that the feelings are temporary and you’ll be right there with them.”

9. It’s OK to ask them questions.
Education is half the battle. The more you learn about their condition, the easier it is for you to understand. That being said, if they don’t want to talk about what’s going on in that moment, don’t push the issue. Silence doesn’t mean they don’t want your help, they just may be doing their own processing.

10. It’s physically debilitating.
Psychiatric illnesses don’t just mess with their emotions. Conditions like depression and anxiety can cause headaches, soreness, upset stomach and more.

11. They appreciate you.
Even if they don’t express it every day. Your support and patience is vital to their treatment and self-acceptance. So thank you.

Mental Illness is treatable and there are many effective treatments.


  • People can and do recover.
  • Family and friends can provide important support.
  • There are many effective treatments
    • Talk therapy with a mental health professional
    • Medication prescribed by a licensed medical professional
    • Other kinds of therapy (e.g., meditation and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy)


Know the facts.

Fact: Stigma often prevents people from seeking and getting the treatment they need.

People with mental health disorders can almost always feel better with treatment.

Talking with a mental health professional and/or receiving medication from a psychiatrist are among the effective ways of dealing with the symptoms of a mental health disorder.

Fact: Scientists know more about the moon than about the brain, therefore the causes of mental health disorders remain a mystery.

There are many theories about why people develop a mental health disorder, and there does not seem to be one single cause.

Some things that may contribute to a mental health disorder are the genetics we inherit from our families, the ways we deal with stress, and how we deal with our emotions.

Sometimes mental health disorders can be the result of certain medical problems or drug and alcohol abuse.

Fact: People with mental health disorders are more likely to be victims of violence.

Fact: We don't know the cause of mental illnesses.

We do know that if someone has a mental illness, it is not their fault.

No one chooses to get a disorder and we should be compassionate with people who do.

Fact: One in four people will be affected by a mental health disorder.

Mental health disorders can happen to anyone.

They occur in every society, country, race, and nationality.

Anyone from young children to very old people can have a mental health disorder.

Fact: Modern psychotherapy, can be short-term and solution-oriented.

Most common mental health disorders can now be treated in a matter of months instead of years. 

Most short-term psychotherapy approaches use a cognitive-behavioral model (CBT), which emphasizes irrational thoughts which lead to dysfunctional behaviors and feelings. This type of therapy emphasizes learning what those thoughts are and how to easily change many of them, often in a matter only a few weeks.

Fact: Depression is not a weakness, but a serious health disorder.

Both young people and adults who are depressed need professional treatment.

Fact: Trying to cheer someone might make them feel even more misunderstood and ashamed of their thoughts and feelings. It is important to listen well and take them seriously.

Fact: Although the number one contributing cause of suicide is depression, teens don't have to be clinically depressed to have suicidal feelings or to attempt suicide. Even feeling extremely unhappy for a relatively short period of time can lead to impulsive suicide attempts.

Fact: Teens who are thinking about suicide usually find some way of communicating their pain to others - often by speaking indirectly about their intention. Most suicidal people will admit to their feelings if questioned directly.

If you think someone might be suicidal, ask the question. And be direct. There’s a misconception that discussing suicide might plant the idea, but it just doesn’t work like this. If someone is contemplating suicide, the idea will already be there.

Your responses don't have to be perfect. What matters is that you are making a connection, listening, and showing compassion.

Do you have thoughts of suicide?
If the answer is ‘yes’, take it seriously and don’t minimize the situation with responses like, ‘it’s not that bad’.

How can I help?
Tell them you’re there for them and you’ll get through this together, let them know depression is treatable and help them get help.

Do you have a plan? When? Where? How?
A person who verbalizes a plan is further along in the suicide process. 



Mental Health Awareness

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Stomping Out Stigma

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How Do You Treat Mental Illness?

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Understanding the Brain

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