Mental Health Awareness Month


May is National Mental Health Month

By: Kierra Carr, UWO Health Advocate

Mental illnesses are among the most common health issues in the United States. In 2015, there were an estimated 43.4 million adults with mental illness in the previous year. Within the same year, about 75% of children ages 4 to 17 were treated for mental disorders.

To break the stigma, educate yourself on mental illness.

What is a mental illness?

According to the CDC, mental illnesses are “conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be episodic or chronic and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.”  

What are the types of mental illness?

There are more than 200 classified types of mental illness. Some of the categories include Anxiety Disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Disruptive Behavioral Disorders, Depression and other mood disorders, Eating Disorders, Personality Disorders, Schizophrenia Spectrum, and Substance Use Disorders.

The two most common mental health conditions are:

  1. Anxiety Disorders – More than 18% of adults each year struggle with some type of anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders respond to certain situations or objects with fear, dread, or terror. Some of these anxiety disorders include:
    1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    3. Panic disorder (panic attacks)
    4. Generalized anxiety disorder and specific phobias.
  1. Mood Disorders: 1 in 10 adults suffer from some type of mood disorder, which are characterized by difficulties in regulating one’s mood. Two common mood disorders include:
    1. Depression
    2. Bipolar disorder

Here is how to define a few of the common illnesses.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. (
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)OCD is a mental health disorder that occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress. (
Panic Disorder (panic attacks)Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are very preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even when waking up from sleep. (
Specific PhobiasA phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. In most cases, the phobia involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm. (
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)Characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a variety of things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about health, money, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry.
DepressionIn men, depression manifests often as tiredness, irritability and anger. They may show more reckless behavior and abuse drugs and alcohol. They also tend to not recognize that they are depressed and fail to seek help.

In women. depression tends to manifest as sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.

In younger children depression is more likely to manifest as school refusal, anxiety when separated from parents, and worry about parents dying.

Depressed teenagers tend to be irritable, sulky, and get into trouble in school. They also frequently have co-morbid anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

Bipolar DisorderBipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.

The mood episodes associated with the disorder persist from days to weeks or longer, and can be dramatic, with periods of being overly high and/or irritable to periods of persistent sadness and hopelessness.

To break mental illness stigmas and stereotypes, start by educating yourself today.