Anyone can have a mental illness, regardless of age, gender, race, or income. Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or AIDS. It is believed that one in five adults and children has a diagnosable mental disorder, one in every 10 young people age 9 or older has a serious emotional disturbance that severely disrupts daily life.and one in four families will have a member with mental illness. Children who develop depression often have a family history of the illness, many times a parent who had depression at an early age. Untreated mental health problems can lead to suicide, which is the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year olds. An estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need.It is important to remember that mental illness occurs at any age, but most often appears for the first time between the ages of 25 and 44. With proper treatment, most people suffering from a mental illness can return to normal, productive lives, and almost everyone receives some benefit from treatment.
The causes of mental illness are complicated. Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are caused mostly by biology and environment. Examples of biological causes are genetics, chemical imbalances in the body caused by genetics, lack of sleep or poor nutrition, or damage to the central nervous system, such as a head injury, lack of oxygen in child birth and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Many environmental factors also put young people at risk for developing mental health disorders. Examples including exposure to environmental toxins, such as high levels of lead; exposure to violence, such as witnessing or being the victim of physical or sexual abuse, drive-by shootings, muggings, or other disasters; stress related to chronic poverty, discrimination, or other serious hardships; and the loss of important people through death,divorce, or broken relationships.
The following six preventive services are recommended and can be carried out in a clinic, church, library or local community center:
1. Prenatal and infancy home visits or support groups.
2. Targeted cessation education and counseling for smokers, especially those who are pregnant.
3. Targeted short-term mental health therapy.
4. Self-care education for adults (money management, relationship skills, stress management).
5. Mentoring and adult supervised after-school and weekend programs
6. Brief counseling and advice to reduce alcohol use.
Over the years I have found that finding good information is kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The following links will take you to addictions and mental health sites that have the most current and useful information for addictions counselors, rehabilitation counselors, mental health clinicians, nurses and (of course) program administrators. All of the resources are FREE so you can order copies for your colleagues and/or staff!