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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
Blog: Learning about mental illness
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Rae-Ann Tucker-Marshall
Henry-Stark Health Department
Aug. 27, 2014 10 a.m.

   Mental Illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions -
disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior.  Examples of mental
illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating
disorders and addictive behaviors.
   Many people have mental health concerns from time to time.  But a mental
health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms
cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.  A mental illness
can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at
work or in relationships.  In most cases, mental health symptoms can be
managed with a combination of medications and counseling (psychotherapy).
   One in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given
year.  One in five people aged 13 to 18 also experience mental illness.  In
fact, one-half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14-three-quarters
by age 24.
   Unfortunately, there are long delays - sometimes decades - between the
first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.  Less than one-third
of adults and less than one-half of children with diagnosed illness receive
treatment.
   Everyone should know about the nature of mental illness and the symptoms
of different conditions.  Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary,
depending on the particular disorder, circumstances and other factors.
Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
Examples of signs and symptoms include:
* Feeling sad or down
* Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
* Excessive fears or worries
* Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
* Withdrawal from friends and activities
* Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
* Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
* Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
* Extreme feelings of guilt
* Alcohol or drug abuse
* Major changes in eating habits
* Sex drive changes
* Excessive anger, hostility or violence
* Suicidal thinking
   Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical
problems, such as abdominal pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained
aches and pains.
   About 42 million Americans live with anxiety disorders, including
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD).  About 15 million live with major depression.  About 6 million live
with bipolar disorder.  About 2.6 million live with schizophrenia.
   "You are never alone, " health officials state. Know where to find help if it's
needed.  Most people start with their primary care doctor.  Many start by
confiding in a close family member or friend.  Don't be afraid to speak up.
   The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that stigma is a major barrier to
people seeking help when they need it. That's why Mental
Illness Awareness Week is so important.  We want people to understand mental
illness and join in conversations throughout our community.  The more people
know, the better they can help themselves or help their loved ones get the
support they need.
   If your loved one shows signs of mental illness, have an open and honest
discussion with him or her about your concerns.  You may not be able to
force someone to seek professional care, but you can offer encouragement and
support.  You can also help your loved one find a qualified doctor or mental
health provider and make an appointment.  You may even be able to go along
to the appointment.

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