What is mental illness? Definitions and resources for mental illness

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A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses aren’t the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

Resources include:

• NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) St. Louis, which seeks to improve the quality of life of people with severe and persistent mental illnesses and their families and to promote and provide community support, education, advocacy and understanding. www.namistl.org.

• Catholic Family Services, which supports healing and improved mental health for families and children of all backgrounds through professional counseling and psychiatric services. (314) 544-3800 or www.cfsstl.org.

• CHADS Coalition offers school outreach programs, community awareness presentations and classes as well as family support programs to advance the awareness and prevention of depression and suicide. Staff also provide professional licensed counseling services, telephone support and more usually at no cost. www.chadscoalition.org or for family support call (314) 952-8274.

• The Karla Smith Foundation, which serves family members and friends of those affected by mental illness and suicide. Services include support groups for family members of those with mental illness, support groups for families coping with suicide grief, peer-to-peer coaching and more. The St. Louis mental illness support group meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Tuesday of the month at Clayton Behavior, 9890 Clayton Road, Suite 100. (618) 624-5771 or www.karlasmithfoundation.org.

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

• Behavior Health Response offers a free mental health course for youth and adults. bhrstl.org/trainings-offered-2/

• The Youth Connection Helpline provides 24/7 crisis intervention. (314) 628-2929.

• The St. Louis Regional health Commission’s “Alive and Well in STL” initiative offers free resources. www.aliveandwellstl.com.

• The Independence Center provides resources to organize a conversation on mental health at schools, churches, professional and civic groups. For more information, contact Jamie Clark at (314) 880-5403.

• Mercy offers comprehensive day-treatment programs for adults, adolescents and children who have mental health issues and substance use disorders. The intermediate level of care is designed to alleviate symptoms of mental illness, promote recovery and restore the patient’s ability to recover. (314) 251-6565.

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