A mental illness causes mild to severe disturbances in thinking, perception, mood and/or behavior. These disturbances can affect a person's ability to cope with life's demands and routines. However, with education, support and treatment, people can—and do—recover and live fulfilling lives. Studies indicate that the earlier a mental illness is identified and treated, the better the chances are for full recovery.
Common mental illnesses include:
- Adjustment disorders
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Depressive disorder
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar disorder
The Real Threat: Stigma and Discrimination
Stigma is the rejection, avoidance or fear people direct toward those they perceive as being "different." Stigma becomes discrimination when it deprives people of their civil rights, access to fair housing, employment opportunities, education and full participation in life. According to a landmark 1999 United States Surgeon General report, stigma is "the most formidable obstacle to future progress in the arena of mental illness and health."
Stigma comes from other people, from institutions and even from self-imposed shame. Individually, each source of stigma represents a major barrier. Collectively, they can be profoundly damaging and difficult to overcome. Stigma can shatter hopes of recovery and social inclusion, leaving the person feeling devastated and isolated.
Nearly half of the adults in a national survey said they were unwilling to socialize with, work with, or live near someone with a mental illness. People living with mental illness often say the stigma and discrimination associated with their illness can be worse than the mental illness itself.
The truth is, numerous people living with mental illness go about their everyday lives and successfully fulfill their roles at work, home and in their community. Unless self-disclosed, no one would know that a neighbor, co-worker, supervisor or chief executive officer has a diagnosable mental illness.