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Mental illnesses are serious medical issues. The old-age adage that these illnesses can be overcome through “will power” and are related to a person’s “character” or “intelligence” has finally been debunked.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, every year, mental illness affects approximately 19 percent of the adult population, 13 percent of children and 46 percent of teenagers. Sadly, due to the stigma attached to mental health, only half of the people affected get treatment.

What to Know About Mental Illness

It needs to be emphatically stated…mental illness does not discriminate! It can strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and early adulthood, but the elderly can be especially vulnerable. Although mental illness awareness continues to make progress, studies have shown that while some strides have been made in eradicating fear, shame, and embarrassment, by both the sufferer and families, there is still needed improvement. The stigma of mental illness erodes the confidence that mental disorders are real treatable health conditions, that left untreated, can be a huge challenge. The consequences of poor mental health can lead to low performance at schools, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, medical expenditures, and the risk of suicide if left untreated.

While a myriad of mental disorders exists, a list of common mental health issues includes:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety and panic disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

It is crucial to note that individuals with these disorders or any mental illness do not have to suffer silently. With all the available knowledge, working in tandem with both medical and support groups, and most importantly, knowing that there is help available, a person can go on to live a fulfilled and healthy life.

What are the symptoms of mental illness?

There are warning signs and symptoms that can help you determine when to seek medical help. These signs (NAMI-Sat) can vary between individuals of different ages:

Children

  • Recurrent temper tantrums
  • Insistent nightmares
  • Hyperactivity
  • Abnormalities in eating and sleeping habits

Teenagers

  • Substance abuse
  • Extreme fear
  • Recurrent anger outbursts
  • Failure to cope with problems
  • Rebelliousness
  • Irregular sleeping and eating behaviors
  • Variations in their ability to cope with responsibilities

Adults and young adults

  • Suicidal feelings
  • Delusions
  • Substance abuse
  • Hallucinations
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Extended depression
  • Excess anxiety, fear, and worry
  • Social withdrawal
  • Confusion

Getting help for Mental Health

Is it an adult or a child? Talk to your primary care physician or pediatrician who can recommend or refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Another helpful resource would be the San Antonio Mental Health Organization.    Additionally, check with your insurance company if they can provide a list of providers who are in your plan. To be supportive, there are certain things you can do to make the person feel better, including:

  • Learning more about mental health in order to correctly support those involved, whether it be family, friends, or co-workers. Mental health affects trickle down and it isn’t just the person struggling but can affect everyone who is involved with the individual.
  • Show respect and recognition to eradicate any barrier that will obstruct the individual to cope with their illness.
  • Do your best to stay patient and non-judgmental.
  • You don’t have to be an expert or have the answers. Just be willing to listen and be there for the person.
  • Remind them that seeking help is a sign of strength.
  • NAMI Family to Family is a free, 12-session educational program for family and friends of people living with mental illness. It is an evidenced-based program taught by NAMI-trained family members who have been there. Find a NAMI Family to Family meeting near you.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The city of San Antonio provides mental health resources for you and your loved ones when in crisis. If you need information about what to do, where to go or who to talk to, the following resources could be helpful to you personally or to support a family member or friend deal with mental illness.

SAMHS treatment

You can find alcohol and drug abuse, mental health facilities and programs all over the country as well as in San Antonio using the service locator.

San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital

The whole family is affected when one member suffers a serious mental illness. This hospital offers psychiatric services as well as substance abuse specialty services in San Antonio and its nearby communities.

National suicide prevention lifeline

This is a free and private support for people who are in distress. Qualified crisis therapists respond to calls 24/7.

The American Foundation for suicide prevention

Here you will get referrals for support groups and psychiatrists as well as psychologists.

Center for healthcare services

This hospital works with the people of San Antonio and neighboring areas to deliver counseling and the help needed by people affected by mental health to better their lives. This center deals with people struggling with substance abuse, alcoholism and provides therapy to people with mental health conditions as well as other cerebral and developmental disabilities.

San Antonio Counseling and Behavioral Center

This center offers psychotherapy for children, teenagers, adults and families upon appointment. Visit their website to check the nearest clinic.

Anxiety and depression association of America

This association enhances the early identification, treatment, and cure of the anxiety problem.

San Antonio Autism Society Support Group

This society funds groups and offers information as well as transfers for people affected by autism. People are connected with community support and resources. This group meets monthly or sometimes twice a month.

River North Anxiety

River North specializes in mental health practices in adults aged 18-55 dealing with anxiety and problems related to anxiety. Visit their website to learn more about anxiety and anxiety-related problems.

Medicare

You can visit the Medicare website and find a list of participating doctors. Registered professional counselors or clinical counselors are trained to evaluate mental health problems using various methods.