What is mental Health?

Most people believe that mental disorders are rare and "happen to someone else.” In fact, mental disorders are common and widespread. An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year.

Most families are not prepared to cope with learning their loved one has a mental illness. It can be physically and emotionally trying, and can make us feel vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others.If you think you or someone you know may have a mental or emotional problem, it is important to remember there is hope and help.

There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorder. Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal. Addictive disorders are believed to be biologically based disorders as well.

Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events. As with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these. With proper care and treatment many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness, addiction or emotional disorder.

Mental Health Facts

  • One in five children has a diagnosable emotional disorder and one in ten has a serious disorder. Less than one-third get appropriate care. (Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health)
  • 4.3 million Texans (3.1 million adults and 1.2 million children) had some form of diagnosable mental health disorder in 2002. (20%) (Mental Health Association in Texas, 2003)
  • 1.5 million Texans suffered serious mental illness, which impaired their ability to function at work, school, and in the community in 2002. (7%) (President’s Freedom Commission on Health, 2002)
  • In 2001, 49, 073 of the 249,868 (20%) estimated adult population in Fort Bend County battled with a mental illness. (Mental Health America of Texas)
  • Lack of adequate mental health care contributes to an overrepresentation of people with mental illness in our prison system. An estimated 16% of prisoners have mental illness and 50% of youth in the Texas Youth Commission have a mental disorder. (Criminal Justice Policy Council, 2002)
  • In the course of one year, a person who has been repeatedly jailed, hospitalized, or admitted to detoxification centers can cost the State an estimated $55,000 each. (Criminal Justice Policy Council, 2002)
  • In FY99, the State of Texas spent more than $51 million on mental health in our justice system alone. (Health and Human Services Commission, 2000)
  • 90% of suicides are related to untreated or under-treated mental illness with the most common factor associated with suicide being depression. (Mental Health America in Texas, 2003)

Mental health disorders are not character flaws. Treatment success for serious mental illnesses ranges from 60-80 percent, whereas the treatment success rate for heart disease ranges from only 41-52 percent. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1995)

Warning Signs and Symptoms

The following are signs that your loved one may want to speak to a mental health professional.

Mental Health Signs and Symptoms in Adults:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

Mental Health Signs and Symptoms in older children and pre-adolescents:

  • Alcohol/Substance abuse
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Change in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear of weight gain/obesity
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death or frequent outbursts of anger
  • School-related problems
  • Sexual promiscuity

Mental Health Signs and Symptoms in younger children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Hyperactivity or persistent disobedience or aggression (frequent temper tantrums
  • Inappropriate sexual interest or behavior
  • Mental Health FAQs

National Mental Health America has an extensive library online relating to mental health issues and illnesses. Click to read more.

What is Mental Health