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Mental Illness Awareness Week:

Bureaucracy Busters LogoAccording to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Like other medical conditions, mental illness can affect anyone at any time regardless of age, race, religion or income. There is often a great deal of stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds mental illness and those that are affected, but it is important to understand that mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable, and resources and support are available for those experiencing mental illness.

Read some of the information below to learn more about mental illness, as well as some of the resources that are available if you or a loved one is experiencing a mental illness. Make sure to log back into Bureaucracy Busters in about a week to see how State employees did on the "Mental Illness Week" survey and to discuss how you can work to reduce stigma around mental illness.

True or False:

Individuals living with serious mental illness do not face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.

Answer: False.

In fact, people with mental illness have a high incidence of metabolic disorders including obesity, diabetes, mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Additionally, studies have also shown that people with mental illness die 25 years sooner than people without mental illness.

To learn more about what the State of Michigan is doing to integrate physical and behavioral health, click here

One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by what age?

Answer: Age 14.

While one-half of mental illness begins by this age, three-quarters of all chronic mental illness begins by age 24.

Approximately what percent of adults with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year?

Answer: 60%.

Additionally, almost ½ of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness did not receive treatment in the previous year. Despite the fact that many cases of mental illness in the United States go untreated, mood disorders (like depression) are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18 to 44.

Mental illness is treatable. There are Evidence-Based Treatments for people who experience the symptoms of Depression, and other EBPs for those who experience the symptoms (or episodes) of other mental illnesses such as Bi-Polar illness and Schizophrenia. Medication helps, therapy helps, and the current ‘gold standard' is a combination of therapy and medication. However, not everyone experiencing the symptoms of mental illness needs medication. Sometimes a friend, increased social activities, journaling, exercise, and related activities are extremely useful. The best thing to do is get symptoms checked out and treated.

True or False:

Despite effective treatment, there are often long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.

Answer: True

For many people with mental illness, the stigma associated with mental illness can be a barrier to seeking treatment and support. The chart below depicts ways in which different forms of stigma can impact individuals experiencing mental illness.

The Effects of Prejudice and Discrimination

Prejudice and discrimination exclude people with mental health and substance use problems from activities that are open to other people This limits people's ability to:

  • Get and keep a job
  • Get and keep a safe place to live
  • Get health care (including treatment for substance use and mental health problems) and other support
  • To be accepted by their family, friends and long-term relationships
  • Take part in social activities
Prejudice and discrimination often become internalized by people with mental health and substance use problems This leads them to:

  • Believe the negative things that other people and the media say about them (self-stigma)
  • Have lower self-esteem because they feel guilt and shame
  • Prejudice and discrimination contribute to people with mental health and substance use problems keeping their problems a secret
As a result:

  • They avoid getting the help they need
  • Their mental health or substance use problems are less likely to decrease or go away.

From Corrigan P., Watson, A., (2002). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry, 1(1): 16-20

True or False:

About 9.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and additional disorders.

Answer: True.

Consider this: 55% of individuals in treatment for schizophrenia report lifetime substance use disorder (Regier et al, 1990), and 59.9% of individuals with substance disorder have an identifiable psychiatric diagnosis (Kessler et al, 1996).

Traditional models of the mental health and substance use systems operated in isolation. However, this is beginning to change. In recent years there has been a growing focus on co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

You can learn more about integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

Information on substance abuse and prevention, including assessments, women's specialty services, and screening tools can be found here.

Additional Resources

Mental illness can also take time to diagnose accurately. In fact, initial diagnoses are often modified several times. Co-occurring disorders, as well as underlying medical diseases, can have an impact on diagnosis. For this reason, a physical examination is recommended when mental illness is suspected.