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Mental Health Month
A mental illness is a disorder of the brain that results in a
disruption in a person's thinking, feeling, moods, and ability to
relate to others. Mental illness is distinct from the legal
concept of insanity.
Mental health, mental hygiene, behavioral health, and mental
wellness are all terms used to describe the state or absence
of mental illness.
The Scream (1893),
National Gallery, Oslo.
The Scream, the famous
thought of as depicting
the experience of
Some psychiatrists attribute mental
illness to organic/neurochemical
causes that can be treated with
psychiatric medication, psychotherapy,
lifestyle adjustments and other
supportive measures, but it is
important to note that we really
don't know what causes mental
illness. The battle between "nature"
and "nurture" goes on as it has for
years. We still don't know enough
about the working of the brain and
the nature of mental illness to
understand what might be inherited
(a result of specific genes) and what
is learned as a result of our unique
Advocacy organizations have been trying to change the common
perception of psychiatric disorders, which are frequently
seen as signs of personal weakness and something to be
ashamed of. Advocacy organizations instead likened psychiatric
disorders to physical diseases like the measles.
Prevalence of and diagnosis of mental illness
According to the 2003 report of the U.S. President's New
Freedom Commission on Mental Health, major mental illness,
including clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia,
and obsessive-compulsive disorder, when compared with all
other diseases (such as cancer and heart disease), is the most
common cause of disability in the United States. According to
NAMI (the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
(http://www.nami.org)) an American advocacy organization,
23% of North American adults will suffer from a clinically
diagnosable mental illness in a given year, but less than half
of them will suffer symptoms severe enough to disrupt their
daily functioning. Approximately 9% to 13% of children under
the age of 18 experience serious emotional disturbance with
substantial functional impairment; 5% to 9% have serious
emotional disturbance with extreme functional impairment
due to a mental illness. Many of these young people will
recover from their illnesses before reaching adulthood, and
go on to lead normal lives uncomplicated by illness.
Coping With Stress
Stress is a natural part of life. You can feel physical stress
when you have too much to do, or when you've had too little
sleep, aren't eating properly or have been ill. Stress can also
be emotional: you can feel it when you worry about money,
your job or a loved one's illness, or when you experience a
devastating life event, such as the death of a spouse or the
loss of a job. When stress is not addressed, it can affect many
parts of your life, including your productivity and performance
on the job. In fact, workplace stress causes about 1 million
U.S. employees to miss work each day.
The key to coping with stress is to determine your personal
tolerance levels for stressful situations. You must learn to
accept or change stressful or tense situations whenever
possible. Some of the following suggestions may help immediately,
but if your stress is constant, it may require more
attention or even lifestyle changes.
- Take one thing at a time. Pick one urgent task and work on
it. When that's done, move on to the next, and so on.
- Be realistic. If you're overwhelmed at home or at work,
learn to say, “No!”
- Don't try to be superman/superwoman. No one is perfect,
so don't expect perfection from yourself.
- Visualize. Use your imagination to see how you can manage
a stressful situation at work or home more effectively.
- Meditate. Five to 10 minutes of quiet reflection can bring
some relief. If you're having a stressful day at work, close your
door and meditate or go for a quick walk to clear your mind.
- Exercise. Thirty minutes of physical activity per day helps
both body and mind. If you have an hour lunch break at the
office, use half of it for a walk or a jog. Make plans with a
coworker to do this a few times a week.
- Hobbies. Take a break and do something you enjoy.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Get adequate rest, eat right,
exercise, limit your use of caffeine and alcohol, and balance
work and play.
- Share yourfeelings. Don't try to cope alone. Let friends
and family provide support and guidance.
- Be flexible! Whether you're at home or at work, arguing only
increases stress. If you feel you're right, stand your ground,
but do so calmly and rationally. Be prepared to make allowances
for other people's opinions and to compromise.
- Don't be overly critical. Remember, everyone is unique and
has his or her own virtues and shortcomings.
You can ease stress by talking with friends or family. But, if
that isn't enough, talk with your doctor, spiritual advisor or
employee assistance professional (EAP). They may suggest that
you see a mental health professional to help you manage your
stress or suggest other resources. Seeking help is not a sign of
weakness; it's a healthy thing to do. For more information,
contact your local Mental Health Association or the National
Mental Health Association at 800-969-NMHA(6642),
or visit www.nmha.org.
SOURCES AND LINKS:
Mental Health IQ?
Take this short true/false
quiz and have some fun
challenging your knowledge
of mental health topics...
The answers may
- T/F Regular exercise can
greatly reduce symptoms of
depression and anxiety
- T/F Treatment success
rates for disorders such as
depression surpass those for
other medical conditions
like heart disease.
- T/F People who have
schizophrenia don't usually
recover from the disorder.
- T/F Work-related stress
can double a person's risk
of dying from heart disease.
- T/F The number of hours
a person works causes more
stress at work than the
- T/F Workplace stress
causes about 1 million U.S.
employees to miss work
- T/F Depression is a
normal part of aging.
- T/F People who have
mental disorders are more
dangerous than people in
the general population.
- T/F About every two
hours, a young person
kills himself or herself.
- T/F One in five
a mental health disorder
in any given year, but
only one-third seek care
due to the stigma and
disorders and their
Mental Health IQ Answer Key
- True! In fact, a recent
study showed that about 60
percent of people with such
disorders significantly reduced
their symptoms with regular
- True! In fact, the treatment
success rate for depression
is more than 80 percent,
whereas the rate for heart
disease is 45-50 percent.
- This common myth is
actually false. Up to twothirds
of people who are
diagnosed with schizophrenia
actually recover significantly—
and some completely— from t
- This sad fact is true.
- This is false.A recent study
shows that job environment
has a far greater impact on
stress at the office than the
number of hours workers
put in. A positive work environment
can go a long way to
relieve stress and increase
- False. Depression is not
a normal part of the aging
process that we need to
“grin and bear.” Older
people who have symptoms
of depression should
address the issue with their
- False! This common
distortion gets perpetuated
by the rare incidents that
make the headlines.
Statistics show, however,
that people who have mental
disorders are no more likely
to be dangerous than people
without such disorders.
- Sadly, this is true.Three
million teenagers have either
considered or attempted
suicide in the past year—but
only one-fifth of kids who
need mental health services
actually receive them.
- This is true. Unfortunately,
people often let shame or a
belief that they can “handle it
on their own” keep him or her
from getting care. The truth is,
mental illnesses are real,
common and treatable. No one
should let stigma stand in the
way of getting care that can
lead to a happier, healthier,
more productive life. For more
information, contact your local
Mental Health Association or
the National Mental Health
Association at 800-969-NMHA(6642),
or visit www.nmha.org.
2005 Mental Health
- Mental health and
physical health go hand
- Caring for your mind, as
well as your body, is good
for your overall health and
key to your success at
home, at work and at
- Mental health problems
are real, common and
- Mental health problems,
including depression and
anxiety disorders, are as
treatable as many physical
Fast Facts About
In the Workplace
- One in four people report
they've missed work as a
result of work-related
- Workplace environments
have a greater effect on
employee stress levels than
the number of hours
- Seventy-five percent of
visits to doctors' offices
- Chronic stress can double
a person's risk of having a
- Stress is linked to the
six leading causes of death:
heart disease, cancer,
lung ailments, accidents,
cirrhosis of the liver and
In Diverse Communities
- African Americans and
Latinos are up to three
times more likely than
whites to say that people of
color are less likely to
receive adequate health
care. Only one in five
whites agree with this
One-third of all Latinos
(32.7 percent) lack health
insurance coverage, a far
higher proportion than any
other ethnic group.
Ninety percent of African
American youths who enter
the mental health system
live in poverty.
Children and Families
- Five to 9 percent of
children in the United States
have a serious emotional
- About 13 percent of
children between 9 and 17
years old have an anxiety
- About 4.1 percent of
school-age children have
- Only about 21 percent of
children in the United States
who need mental health
services actually receive
Among Older Adults
- About 11 percent of
adults over age 55 have an
- Although 4.4 percent of
older adults have a mood
disorder such as depression,
up to 20 percent have
significant symptoms of
- Chronic stress can cause
- Older adults who are
caregivers to spouses or
other relatives may be at
an increased risk for developing
arthritis, osteoporosis and
some cancers due to longterm