Mental illnesses are disorders of the brain that disrupt a person’s thinking, feelings, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are disorders of the brain that may impact a person’s ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.
Stigma and misinformation often prevent people from talking about or seeking treatment for mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anxiety disorders. This isolates individuals and families at a time when they need help the most.
Mental illnesses can be a secondary problem among people with other disabilities. Depression and anxiety, for example, are seen more frequently among people with disabilities than those without disabilities.
The Surgeon General’s report on Mental Health made a clear connection between mental and physical health and stressed the fundamental importance of mental health to overall health and well-being. The report recognized that mental disorders affect nearly one in five Americans in any given year. It characterized these mental disorders as real illnesses, that, when left untreated, can be just as serious and disabling as physical diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The report also emphasized that mental health and mental illness are concerns for persons of all ages, from childhood through later adulthood.
It is important to realize that mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or a poor upbringing. It is equally essential to know that these brain disorders are treatable and that recovery is possible.
Treatments may include prescribed medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, self-help and support groups, as well as housing services, supported employment and other community services.
The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Minnesota (NAMI-MN) can provide more information about mental illnesses and helpful resources. NAMI also offers classes and support groups for families so they can learn more about mental illness and better ways of coping. For more info, call 651-645-2948 or (toll free) 1-888-473-0237.
NAMI-MN’s mission is to champion justice, dignity, and respect for all Minnesotans affected by mental illness (brain disorders). Through education, advocacy and support, NAMI members strive to eliminate the pervasive stigma of mental illness, affect positive changes in the mental health system, and increase public and professional understanding of mental illness. NAMI-MN is a state affiliate of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, a nonprofit organization.