October 4-10, 2015 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is campaigning to reduce the stigma commonly associated with mental illnesses. In the United States each year, 43.7 million adults experience mental illness, yet only 41% receive medical care. Often, individuals don’t seek the mental health care they need because they feel ashamed about the public’s negative perception of mental illness. This is unfortunate because mental illnesses are treated most successfully when they are detected early.
Studies have shown that early treatment of mental illness can decrease the chance of the illness getting worse or becoming severely debilitating. With each severe psychotic episode, an individual is less likely to fully recover. If children receive mental health care when warning signs first appear, future psychotic episodes may be prevented, and chance of long term disability is reduced.
Mental illness refers to all types of mental disorders, including those related to thought, mood, or behavior. Some common mental illnesses include ADHD, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and schizophrenia. These disorders can have different symptoms for everyone.
Learning about warning signs of mental illness can help individuals receive appropriate medical care early. Some common symptoms of mental illnesses to be aware of are:
- Substance abuse
- Extreme mood swings
- Changes in eating, sleeping, or behavioral patterns
- Weight loss
- Risk-taking behavior
- Prolonged feelings of sadness or anxiety
- Problems learning or concentrating
- Avoiding social activities
- Trying to harm oneself
Learn more about mental illness and its impact on children and teens here: