Why Everyone Should Know Something About Mental Health and Psychopharmacology
Mental Illness Affects Everyone.
As a society, most people either know someone who is mentally ill or have suffered from a mental condition themselves. As such, it behooves everyone to know about mental health and mental illness. That includes a working understanding of the jargon of mental health, the types of therapies existent, and the types of medications used to treat everything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia.
This particular article covers an overview of the mental health process from symptomology through diagnosis and finally, moving toward a model of wellness and recovery.
We have come far in our quest to understand the origins, nature, and treatment of mental illness and conditions, but not far enough. The statistics bear out the need for continued understanding, research, treatment, and the removal of the stigma associated with mental illness.
--One in four students in college today have reported symptoms of depression.(Lindsey, Fabiano, & Stark, 2009)
--According the the CDC, More than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported current depression in 2005–2006. (Pratt LA, Brody DJ. Depression in the United States household population, 2005–2006. NCHS Data Brief. 2008(7):1–8. Cited on Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/data_stats/depression.htm (6/9/13)
--Again according to the the CDC, statistically from 2004-2008, An estimated 10.2% of U.S. adults experienced 14 or more mentally unhealthy days (Frequent Mental Distress or FMD) out of 30. (Moriarty DG, Zack MM, Holt JB, Chapman DP, Safran MA. Geographic patterns of frequent mental distress: U.S. adults, 1993-2001 and 2003-2006. Am J Prev Med 2009:36;497–505.http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/data_stats/nspd.htm)
---Overall, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 22.1 percent of American adults annually or 44.3 million people suffer from some form of mental illness.(NIMH). That is not quite 1 in 4.
These statistics are staggering. Chances are that most everyone will know someone in the above categories. That means that at any given moment, almost 1 in 4 people carry a diagnosable mental health diagnosis.
What Is Mental Illness?
So what exactly is a mental illness? According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI): “ A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.” (NAMI website http://www.nami.org)
Mental illness is a medical condition which disrupts daily living. And it can be serious, very serious if left untreated.
Getting Help: Various Models to Choose From
The Medical Model
The medical model goes hand in hand with the advent of insurance companies and their methodologies of payment for services. The medical model is driven by diagnosis and its hallmark is the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The model is grounded in pathology, that is, in looking at what is wrong with clients rather than in what is right with them.
Disorders are listed along with qualifying symptoms. The DSM is backed by large numbers of scientific studies and it can help identify what is wrong, but it does nothing to identify what strengths a person may bring to their illness.
The Wellness Model
The wellness model is the current model being used in the treatment of mental illness by many health care practitioners today. This model provides a much more complete and multilayered view of the client and the client's illness. It looks as much to strengths and it does to a client's symptoms. It takes into account the client's symptoms as well as the client's coping mechanisms and support systems.
This allows a therapist, doctor, or psychiatrist, to help stabilize the client quickly and efficiently. And it allows the client to use and value the support of others in the quest for wellness.
In general, treatment can include a variety of modalities from medication, to talk therapy, to mediation, exercise, and education regarding the illness.
Getting treatment is critical and too often, those suffering from mental illness go untreated. This happens for a variety of reasons: lack of resources to pay for services, lack of services, shame, etc. Depression can deepen, suicidality can increase, anxiety can worsen, and all of the more serious conditions can cause severe disruption of daily living absent supportive therapy and appropriate medication.
If you or someone you know thinks that you may have a mental health condition, seek treatment for a licensed clinician. It may take time to get an accurate picture of the condition at issue as mental disorders look somewhat different from person to person. In other words, not all depressives manifest the same symptoms in the same way. The same holds true for all the other disorders.
Appendix: Groups of Mental Health Disorders
Major Depressive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
This list is not exhaustive, and only meant to indicate some of the major categories of mental illness.