Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and addictive behaviors are some of the mental illnesses that are prevalent in our society.
Mental illness hurts. It affects people of all ages, gender, race, religion and socio-economic level. It alters family relationships. It changes friendships. It affects work and every aspect of life. It is misunderstood and carries a huge stigma. It is sad.
People are afraid to talk about it due to shame, misunderstanding, negative attitudes, and fear of discrimination. The perceptions about mental illness make it difficult for those crying out for help when they reach out to friends or family and they are told to “shake it off,” or “get over it.” Their symptoms are real and are common medical conditions that require help and understanding. They are not character flaws.
Most people who have cancer or other illnesses have family or friends who rally around them and help them through treatment whereas people with mental illnesses or addictions tend to push people away which can become very lonely for them and their family.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With proper treatment, whether it be a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or counselor, medication, support group or a treatment center, the right help can and will allow people to live a happy and healthy life. As with any other illness you have to find the right help for you. If you try a doctor or therapist and don’t feel that you are getting the help you need for yourself or your loved one, try another one. There is an abundance of support available in our community, and you can find it if you are persistent.
Start by talking to your primary care physician who can recommend a specialist, a treatment facility or some other community resources. Support groups can be a great way to connect with other individuals and families who are going through similar situations.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There can be many causes for mental illness including a chemical imbalance, genetics, trauma and environment. Environmental causes could be exposure to drugs, alcohol or toxins that affected the brain in utero.
Mental illness is everyone’s problem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings annually. More critical 90% of people who die by suicide, which is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., have an underlying mental illness.
Mental illness and addiction are not contagious and are nothing to be ashamed of. Going to a counselor or therapist when you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed should be as normal as going to the doctor when you have the flu.
National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI)
Bexar County Resources for Children
What’s My M3
Offers mental health screening, tracking and crisis information
Provides medication reminders and stores your insurance and physician information
Has a listing of all medications and interactions as well as a pill identifier
Provides CBT/ACT methods and coping strategies and also has a diary feature for habit tracking
Is anonymous and that provides support and encouragement
Is very comprehensive and includes signs and symptoms with resources and referral for Bexar County
Includes a file that lets you add your mental health network with a proactive plan
Includes a thought diary and helps individuals develop an activity list for coping or support
Crisis Text Line
A help line via text. Individual’s text START to 741-741 and a live counselor with training in active
By Susan Thornton