Mind Matters: What is ‘mental illness’? Common signs and disorders

Image by Malombra76 / iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — Mental health affects everyone, whether it’s you personally, someone in your family or even your peers at school or work. Yet it is an issue that isn’t often discussed. As a result, many individuals don’t know what mental illnesses are, what can cause them or that they may come in different forms.

According to a World Health Organization report, 1 in 4 people “will be afflicted by mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives.”

That is approximately 1,875,000,000 individuals in the world that have struggled, are currently struggling or will struggle with mental illness. To bring it a little closer to home, the National Institute of Mental Health stated that in 2015, about 10 million adults in America live with a serious mental illness.

This issue isn’t just for adults either. The NIMH report reveals some unsettling numbers as far as youth are concerned:

  • One in 5 children between the ages of 13-18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness.
  • Approximately half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14 and three-quarters by the age of 24.
  • Approximately 37 percent of youth and teens that have a mental health condition drop out of school.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. In Utah, suicide is the leading cause of death among youth 10-17.

So what is mental illness? If mental health is the state of mind that allows you to cope with the endless challenges life throws at you, mental illness is a condition that prevents you from being able to cope.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking ability, feeling or mood. It can affect a person’s ability to relate to other individuals as well as their ability to function in day-to-day activities.

Mental illness can be caused by a single factor or many different factors. It can be caused by stressful situations such as a hostile family environment or workplace; life changing events such as a new baby, a death or a move; or traumatic life events such as rape, violence and abuse. Studies have also shown that genetics, biochemistry, lifestyle and brain structure can have an influence on mental illness.

In the first article in the St. George News “Mind Matters” series, we posed a series of questions you might ask yourself to evaluate your mental health. Taking that a step further – and depending on your responses – some warning signs of mental illness include the following:

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks.
  • Severe mood swings.
  • Intense worry or fears.
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason.
  • Plans and attempts to take one’s own life.
  • Excessive weight lost or weight gain, binge eating or hardly eating.
  • Out of control risk taking behavior.
  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Drastic changes in sleeping patterns.
  • Difficulty concentrating.

Mental illness exhibits itself in many different forms, which may include the following:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
  • Anxiety.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Borderline personality disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.
  • Psychosis.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
  • Schizophrenia.

For more information on any of the above disorders, or others, visit the NAMI mental health conditions webpage.

As the Mind Matters series continues, we will highlight several Southern Utah mental health providers and organizations, as well as success stories, but if you or someone you know is seeking help or resources now, go to the following websites:

If you or someone you know needs helps immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911. There is help and hope available.

Written by HEIDI BAXLEY, Iron County Prevention Coalition coordinator, and LAUREN MCAFEE, Cedar City Library in the Park grant and development officer.

About the “Mind Matters” Series

St. George News “Mind Matters” series aims to illuminate how mental illnesses affect society and how to maintain mental health. Articles are contributed by Cedar City Library in the Park in partnership with the Iron County Prevention Coalition and will highlight available resources people may access in Southern Utah and online.

Read more: All the articles in the Mind Matters series

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Kilroywashere October 14, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    It’s ok. “everybody’s got something to hide except for me and monkey ” the Beatles, and NO ! Absolutely NO!!!! I will not be at Beatle copy band concert for the 10th year in a row at the Tuacahn. Lastly, the worst case scenario is NOT KNOWING. Some of these conditions can go undiagnosed for even decades, before you realize why you have been losing your keys all your life and by default built structures to compensate. Lastly, SOCIAL STIGMA. Articles like this are vital to those suffering from mental illness. Why I am commenting, as well as to praise the writer. Be ye wise of anti depressents for children. Not a doctor, but kid may decide one day to stop taking meds out of stigma, dopamine crash, then suicidal thoughts. Research UK laws regarding this issue and subsequent ban in England. Once again not a doctor, but we all got depressed as kids once in awhile, part of growing up.

  • mctrialsguy October 17, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Ask ED on the EDge, I think that he has first hand knowledge.

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