Q: What is mental illness?
A: A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD, panic disorder, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. Mental illnesses can affect people of any race, age, religion, or income. They are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing.
Q: Can people recover from mental illness? Is there a cure?
A: Recovery is a process and is different for each person, depending on personal factors as well as the type of mental illness from which a person suffers. While there is currently no “cure” for most mental illnesses, recovery is possible. Most people diagnosed with a mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan, including medication, therapy, and peer support groups as well as balanced diet, exercise, and sleep.
Q. How many people are affected by mental illness?
A: The number is higher than you think, because only about half of those affected receive treatment. In 2012, there were an estimated 9.6 million adults (4.1% of the population) who struggled with serious mental illness. There were an estimated 43.7 million adults (18.6% of the population) who struggled with any mental illness. In 2012, an estimated 10.4 million adults (4.5% of the population) had at least one major depressive episode in the past year with severe impairment from work, relationships, home management, or social life. Within the prison system, 44.8% of inmates in federal prison, 56.2% of inmates in state prison, and 64.2% of inmates in local jail were found to have a mental illness.
Q. How can I cope with my family member with a mental illness?
A: Depending on the type of mental illness and your relationship, you may be able to go to therapy with your family member, especially if it’s your spouse or child. Additionally, there are family and caregiver support groups (search here by state) and a Family-to-Family educational course.
Q. If I (or a friend) have been diagnosed with a mental illness, what do I do now?
A: Your medical doctor may have some good advice or referrals. First, educate yourself about your mental illness, then seek out a support group and therapist that fits your needs. If you need someone to help you with resources, help you find treatment options nearby or just listen, the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses has a helpline 1-800-950-NAMI.
Q: What if I am considering suicide?
A: If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, family crisis, or are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. The Suicide Prevention Hotline has trained counselors available 24/7 1-800-273-TALK.
Q: What if my friend or family member refuses treatment?
A: In the U.S. non-compliance to treatment is not a crime. You cannot force someone to take medication or go to therapy, except in the case of minors, those who are a danger to themselves or others, or criminals for whom it is mandated as part of their punishment. If your friend or family member is a danger, you can call 911 and ask for crisis intervention. In some states, you can file for an AOT (assisted outpatient treatment) if the case is severe enough.
Q: What are some causes for concern for a parent regarding mental health?
A: A sudden or persistent drop in school performance; persistently aggressive behavior; threats to self or others; substantial mood swings; hallucinations, paranoia or delusions; acting very withdrawn, sad, or overly anxious; extreme difficulty interacting with friends or siblings; extreme changes in sleeping and eating patterns; increased or persistent use of alcohol or drugs. The most common mental health conditions in youth and children are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, ADD/ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders. Psychotic illnesses are not common, but if they were to happen, onset would most likely be in the teen and young adult years.
Q. What do I do for a child who is struggling with mental illness at home and school?
A: If you are worried about your child’s mental health, follow your instincts. Unexplained changes in a child’s behavior or mood may be the early warning signs of a mental health condition and should never be ignored. Do not be afraid to get your child evaluated by a licensed mental health professional.
 Author’s name not available, National Alliance on Mental Illness,
Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.
Psalm 139:7-12 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Romans 5:3-5 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Xavier Amador with Anna-Lisa Johanson, I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help!, (Peconic: Vida Press, 2000)