Mental health is about your emotional and social well-being, how you cope with stress and other challenges, and how you interact with others. It can affect all aspects of your life, including your ability to work, study and care for yourself. It can even affect how your body works. Mental illnesses are real and they can affect anyone, at any age or stage of life.
They may be caused by genetic factors, such as having a family history of mental illness. Or they may be triggered by environmental factors, such as living in an unsafe environment or experiencing trauma. In addition, brain chemistry plays a role. Neurotransmitters, naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells, can become unbalanced and lead to certain disorders, such as depression or anxiety.
People with mental illnesses have many of the same life struggles as other people, such as finding housing and getting a job, and they can be just as likely to experience discrimination. They are also at high risk of suicide, which can have devastating consequences for families and communities. But they can also get better, with help from treatment.
The stigma that surrounds mental illnesses prevents people from getting the treatment they need. Untreated, mental illnesses can cause serious problems like substance abuse, depression, suicide and more. They can also have a direct impact on someone’s economic security, with higher medical bills and fewer employment opportunities.
But there’s a lot that you can do to improve your mental health, from seeing a doctor for diagnosis and treatment to taking steps to protect yourself and those around you. And remember: it’s not your fault that you have a mental illness, and you’re not alone.
NIMH’s mission is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illness through basic and clinical research. This research leads to prevention, recovery and cure.
To do that, NIMH supports an array of scientific perspectives. Scientists explore the full spectrum of mental disorders, from genes to cellular mechanisms to circuits to behavior. They chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where and how to intervene. And they strengthen the infrastructure that supports clinical trials, from recruitment and data sharing to standards for human subject protections.
NIMH’s work is changing lives. The FDA approved lithium for mania based on NIMH-funded research, resulting in enormous drops in hospital days and suicides. And the federal government shifted its role from community-based services to providing technical assistance and funding state mental health systems. Today, NIMH is one of the largest institutes in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and one of the oldest in the world. It is also among the most innovative, having pioneered the first clinical trials of antidepressants and developing cognitive therapies that have helped many patients. It was the first agency to use electronic health records and to establish national treatment guidelines for depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It has also led to the development of a range of other new medications, including antipsychotics and antidepressants that are now available as generics.