Mental illness is a chronic health condition that people can and do recover from

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and it’s a good time to remember that millions of people in the United States are affected by mental illness each year. Whether we are dealing with our own diagnoses or helping take care of someone else who might be struggling with mental illness, the impacts are social, financial, and physical. It’s important to know that we are not alone and that help is available.

Can you help with some context around the millions of people affected by mental illness? How common is it?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness every year. That’s about 48 million people. The group also says that 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness, or 11.4 million people. A mental illness is classified as serious when it affects a person’s ability to be successful in their life at home, work, or school. And speaking of school, kids and teens also experience mental illness — 1 in 6 youths ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. So even if you are not counted among those numbers, chances are very high that someone you know, or love, is.

How do we know if someone is suffering from a mental illness? Are there general symptoms we should watch for?

A person’s mental health may be at risk if you notice symptoms that might include confused thinking or an inability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, extreme mood changes, delusions, paranoia or hallucinations, the inability to cope with daily problems, major changes in eating habits, and extreme feelings of guilt, among others. If you or someone you know is struggling and possibly suicidal, please call or text the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357. It’s important to remember that people can and do recover from mental illness with appropriate treatment and supports.

How do we know if someone is in recovery?

Recovery is an ongoing process that includes a person’s entire mental well-being, and how well they can function each day. Recovery doesn’t happen quickly, and it’s not guaranteed that someone in recovery will stay in recovery. Stigma can play a big part in a person’s recovery journey by making it more difficult than it already is.

How do we help diminish that?

It’s not easy to admit that you have a mental illness. But we, as a society, are developing a better understanding of mental illness and we are pleased to see a lot more acceptance of mental illness as a health condition. Getting treatment for a mental illness should be no different than getting treatment for cancer or diabetes or some other chronic health condition. Mental illness and substance use disorders are not issues that happen to other people. They happen to us, to a family member, or a loved one, and the impact spreads. If people don’t feel comfortable asking for help, they won’t get it until they are in crisis. And then treatment is more difficult.

Where can people find more help?

The Idaho Careline, available in Idaho by dialing 2-1-1, can help with resources and referrals. Idaho has crisis centers in every region of the state that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help people with mental illness and substance use disorders. You can find out more about the one in your area by visiting and clicking on Behavioral Health. You can also find help by visiting for information.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs Tuesday mornings on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from Oct. 8.)


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