People who experience mental illness often have difficulty functioning in work, school or family activities. Despite this, the majority of those with mental illness are able to live full lives with effective treatments. Many people don’t get the help they need because of stigma and lack of understanding.
Psychologists are working to change this. They’re researching the causes of mental health problems and helping families and communities cope. They’re also developing new therapies and training doctors to better treat their patients. They’re behind recent recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that mental health screenings for anxiety and depression be added to routine preventive care for children and teens.
In addition, psychologists are leading the effort to develop evidence-based mental health care that is accessible and affordable for all. For example, they’re designing new ways to deliver psychological care in primary care settings, such as mobile health apps and telehealth services. They’re also testing innovative payment models that reward providers for providing quality care and reducing costs.
What is a mental illness?
A mental illness is a health condition that affects your emotions, thoughts and behavior. A person’s mood can swing from normal to abnormal, and if it is disruptive to your life or the lives of those around you, it may be time to seek help.
There are many different types of mental illnesses, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders. A psychiatric diagnosis is made by a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist, who will assess your symptoms and history to determine the type of mental illness you have.
Scientists don’t know what causes most mental illnesses, but they do know that a combination of factors can contribute to their development. Some of these are biological — genes and aspects of how you learn and socialize can increase your risk. Other factors can include your environment, such as living in a war zone or dealing with abuse and trauma as a child. And some are caused by your personal choices, such as smoking or abusing drugs.
Often, people don’t realize they need help until it is too late. This is why it’s important to recognize the signs and talk to your doctor if you think you have a mental health problem. Treatments can include group, couple or individual therapy and medications. Some of the most common medicines for mental illness are antidepressants, mood stabilisers and antipsychotics. There are also a number of things you can do to stay healthy, including getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and staying connected with friends and family.
It’s important to remember that most mental illnesses are treatable. But, for too long, society has allowed stigma and a false sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal and structural barriers to seeking help and recovery. It’s time to take these barriers down. Together, we can make a difference in the mental health of all people. By recognizing and supporting those who struggle, we can ensure that everyone has access to the care they need.