Mental health disorders are medical conditions that disrupt 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 of the brain 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, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible. Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental health disorders are not 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.
Organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health and Mental Health America are dedicated to educating the public on mental illnesses and treatments. At The Kim Foundation, we strive to connect individuals, families, and the community to these valuable, trustworthy resources.
Click on the mental illness below to learn more about signs and symptoms, risk factors, treatments and therapies, clinical trials, free brochures, and shareable resources. If you are in crisis and need immediate help, please call 1.800.273.TALK (8255) or 911.
Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Some mental illnesses have been linked to an abnormal balance of special chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or are not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of mental illness.
Other biological factors that may be involved in the development of mental illness include:
Genetics (heredity): Many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting that people who have a family member with a mental illness are more susceptible to developing a mental illness. Susceptibility is passed on in families through genes. Experts believe many mental illnesses are linked to abnormalities in many genes, not just one. That is why a person inherits a susceptibility to a mental illness and doesn’t necessarily develop the illness. Mental illness itself occurs from the interaction of multiple genes and other factors such as stress, abuse, or a traumatic event, which can influence or trigger an illness in a person who has an inherited susceptibility to it.
Infections: Certain infections have been linked to brain damage and the development of mental illness or the worsening of its symptoms. For example, a condition known as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (PANDA) associated with the Streptococcus (Strep) bacteria has been linked to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental illnesses in children.
Brain defects or injury: Defects in or injuries to certain areas of the brain have also been linked to some mental illnesses.
Prenatal damage: Some evidence suggests that a disruption of early fetal brain development or trauma that occurs at the time of birth, for example, loss of oxygen to the brain, may be a factor in the development of certain conditions, such as autism.
Other factors: Poor nutrition and exposure to toxins, such as lead, may play a role in the development of mental illnesses.
Psychological factors that may contribute to mental illness include:
Certain stressors can trigger an illness in a person who is susceptible to mental illness. These stressors include:
In addition to promoting mental health awareness, The Kim Foundation believes in and fully supports the recovery process. Recovery is very individualized and looks different for different people, but there is a realization that true recovery from mental illness is attainable for everyone. To promote greater public awareness and the importance of recovery, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has given recovery a new definition as part of the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative. “Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”
Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has outlined four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:
SAMHSA also set Guiding Principles of Recovery to reflect common elements of the recovery experience for those with mental disorders and/or substance use disorders: