A Topic Well Worth Discussion

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines mental illness as “disorders generally characterized by dysregulation of mood, thought and/or behavior.” According to the agency, mood disorders, such as major depression, are the most pervasive of all mental disorders. Other examples of mental illness include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the largest nonprofit, grassroots mental health education organization, shares several key facts regarding mental illness:

  • Mental illnesses are not the “result of weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.”
  • Mental illnesses are treatable. In fact, 70 to 90 percent of individuals who seek treatment, often a combination of “pharmacological and psychosocial treatments” and support experience a significant reduction of symptoms and enjoy an improved quality of life.
  • Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders.
  • Mental illness affects people of all demographic backgrounds — all ages, races, religions and income.

Eating disorders are of great concern as well. According to NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their lives.

A review of nearly 50 years of research confirmed that anorexia nervosa, a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Further, for females between ages 15 and 24 who suffer from anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate associated with the illness is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death.

However, the stigma associated with mental illness often keeps individuals from seeking treatment and from being open with others about it. This fear can in turn create a sense of hopelessness, and many suffer in silence. 

In this issue, we address a number of topics that affect mental wellbeing.