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What is Mental Illness?

What is Mental Illness?

People with mental illness have disorders of thought, feeling, or behaviour that result in an inability to cope with the demands of everyday life. Symptoms vary in type and degree from illness to illness and from person to person. They are often cyclical in nature and vary in severity over time. An acute episode may last from weeks to months for some and many years or a lifetime for others.

The following list of symptoms could be warning signs of a mental illness developing:

· Social withdrawal
· Depression
· Thought disorders
· Strong, absent or inappropriate expressions of feeling
· Destructive behaviours
· Impaired thinking and/or difficult concentrating
· Disturbances in relationships with others
· Severe fluctuations in mood
· Extreme fatigue and low energy

They should be taken seriously and, when more than one symptom appears in adolescents, should not be considered just a passing phase. This is important because many mental illnesses begin during adolescence.

It is always best to start with a physical examination to rule out the possibility of an underlying medical disease (hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, brain tumour, disordered metabolism) when mental illness is suspected.

It is important to know that research is progressing at a steady rate and there are many medications and therapies that can help affected individuals lead productive lives. Combining the appropriate type of psychotherapy with medications and rehabilitation intervention can often increase a person’s chances of remaining stable and functional.

For more information on mental illness:

The Canadian Mental Health Association offers downloadable pamphlets
Kids Mental Health
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
Public Health Agency Canada
Warning Signs of Mental Illness

Click HERE for information on specific illnesses.

Mental illness is NOT:

  • A weakness
  • A phase
  • Something someone does for attention
  • The result of bad parenting
  • Contagious like a cold
  • Something that affects only adults
  • A normal part of adolescence or of aging
  • The cause or reason behind most violent attacks
  • A figment of the imagination

Mental illness is something that should be taken seriously. It is not something to joke about, and it is not something that is “just in someone’s head”.

Click HERE for more information on myths about mental illness.