What is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a collective term that refers to all the different types of mental conditions, including those that affect mood, thinking and behavior. More than 200 conditions are classified as mental illnesses. To be classified as a mental illness, a condition must cause distress and reduce the ability to function in one or more areas of life (ex. at work, in relationships or socially). A mental illness is technically considered a disorder rather than a disease because it's classified by descriptions of signs and symptoms that are open to interpretation. Interpretations vary from culture to culture based on societal norms. Mental disorders fall along a continuum of severity from minor to severe. Serious mental illnesses include schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. Anxiety disorders, which include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias, frequently co-occur with depression or addiction disorders.
Federal Commission Endorses Recovery
Effective treatment focuses on respectfully helping people recover strengths and abilities. In 2002, President Bush established the New Freedom Commission to evaluate public mental heath services. The appointed members endorse the recovery principles emerging from a grassroots movement that gained momentum in the 1990's. As a result, Behavioral Health Systems are charged with structuring services in ways that support the recovery process. No matter how disabling the symptoms are, there is still a part of the person that is well. Multiple studies reveal that focusing on and strengthening the part that is well promotes recovery. Individuals consistently report having someone who believed in them was essential to recovering. Other recovery supports include medication treatment and interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, peer support groups, and Recovery Wellness Action Plans (WRAP). Available transportation, supportive relationships, meaningful paid or volunteer activities, and adequate nutrition, exercise, and sleep contribute to overall health and wellness, and are important to mental health recovery.
The best treatments for serious mental illnesses are highly effective. While there is no specific cure, with access to proven treatment and recovery supports:
70%-90% of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life.
45% - 60% sustain complete remission, even from such debilitating illnesses as schizophrenia, clinical depression and bi-polar disorder.
Early intervention improves prognosis, accelerates recovery and minimizes further harm related to the course of illness.
80% recovered in a study that targeted early intervention (ill for less than one year).