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Mental Illness Awareness Week

Posted 10-15-2018

Did you know that one in five Americans are affected by a mental health condition? Each year, Mental Illness Awareness Week brings attention to an issue that millions of Americans face every day, mental illness. The purpose of this week is to educate the public, fight the stigma around mental illness, and provide support for those who are suffering.


Defining Mental Illness

A mental health condition isn’t always the result of one event such as a car accident or the death of a loved one. Recent research suggests genetics, environment, and lifestyle may influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. Some of these conditions include:

A mental illness is defined as a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. It’s important to keep in mind that people may have different experiences even though they may have the same diagnosis. Everyone, more than likely, experiences some form of anxiety but when that anxiety becomes overwhelming and impacts your life, that is when it becomes a disorder.

There is no single test that can determine if you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness. Some of the most common symptoms or signs of mental illness include but are not limited to:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Changes in sleeping habits

Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, half of mental health conditions begin by the age of 14, and one in five children ages 13-18 have, or will develop a serious mental illness.

When children begin to show signs that something is wrong many parents just ask, “Is this a phase?” Many teens and adolescents don’t talk about their thoughts and feelings because they are still learning how to identify them. Some of the most common symptoms in children include:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression

The cause of a child’s mental illness is greatly influenced by many things. These types of illnesses can develop if they are being bullied at school, recently lost a family member or have experienced changes at home. 75% of all cases begin by the age of 24. As a parent or guardian, if you are seeing these warning signs or are concerned, talk to your pediatrician, or school administrators and connect with other families who may be going through similar experiences.

Mental Illness in Adults

43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year. Mental illness does not discriminate based on gender, race or economic background. Just this year, celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade both died from suicide. Signs and symptoms of a mental illness may vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors.

Similar to those children experience when suffering from a mental illness, some adults may experience:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder can appear as physical problems such as stomach pain, back pain, headache or other unexplained aches and pains.

What is the cause of these illnesses in adults? Certain factors can increase your risk of developing a mental illness, including:

  • Having a blood relative with a mental illness
  • Stressful life situation such as finances, family or work
  • Going through a traumatic experience
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs

Recovery is Possible with PORT

When you or a loved one is faced with a mental illness, always keep in mind that recovery is possible. Choosing the right mix of treatments and support that work for you is not only an important step in the recovery process but one of the first ones that should be made. At PORT Health, we have locations across eastern North Carolina so that the care you need is accessible and convenient.


Whether you decide on counseling, medication or a combination of both, recovery is within reach. A mental illness doesn’t have to hold you back from the things you once loved, at PORT Health we will help you find your way forward.