WHAT WE KNOW
   

Tens of millions of people worldwide suffer from some type of mental illness. According to a World Health Organization study, mental disorders represent four of the ten leading causes of disability for people ages 5 and older.

The causes of each illness are complex and varying, but research indicates that, like other diseases, the symptoms of mental illness can very often be successfully treated by medications, therapy and rehabilitation.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the leading government agency researching the causes and treatment for mental illness.

Below are some resources that can be found on the NIMH web site.

More information about the public policy implications of mental illness can be found in the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health

More Information on Symptoms of Mental Illnesses:

Dr. Kadrmas

Dr. Arnold Kadrmas is the medical director of psychiatric services at St. Joseph's Hospital in Lewiston, ID. He is also the immediate past chair of the Idaho State Planning Council on Mental Health. Below he describes some of the symptoms of major mental illnesses.

Dr. Kadrmas on Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be very variable. There's usually what's called a prodome time. Prodrome can last months literally where the person used to be very socially interactive stops doing that slowly, becomes more isolative, less interested in social activities and so on.

When the person becomes very ill they may have very acute symptoms of schizophrenia; they may start talking to someone who may not be there. They may be up all night, people might notice that they're not sleeping and they might be up all night and maybe they're hearing mumblings or something coming out of the person's room.

When a person has hallucinations, the person might be very irritable and might be real snappish.

People can have schizophrenia and not hear voices. Besides having hallucinations and delusions, people can have paranoid ideas. They might think that people are against them, that people are conspiring against them, that the mail man's not really the mail man, but might be the mafia keeping an eye them and so on.

Schizophrenia is not split personality. Schizophrenia is a severe, significant psychiatric illness. There is an entity called disassociative identity disorder where people do have some personality changes and so on but it's en entirely different condition.

Dr. Kadrmas on Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

Manic depression is the common name that's used to describe bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder have mood swings. Most commonly they get depressed recurrently. But sometimes they get what's called manic. Manic is a high euphoric mood-not being on drugs not being on alcohol-but having a mood that is expansive and high. People with mania will be very talkative, very social; they don't sleep. I once had a gentleman, he was 72 years old and he went to the pool hall in November, didn't come home until February. He was very funny and very active; he was dying because he was not eating adequately. People with mania are very irritable; they tend to go out and spend a lot of money; they tend to make a lot of phone calls.

It's quite common for people who have a severe, very high mania to have psychosis. They will misinterpret things and so on.

Dr. Kadrmas on Symptoms of Depression:

People slide into depression over the course of usually weeks. When people get depression, they get low mood; they get sadness. They get an inability to enjoy the usual things that they enjoy in life. They oftentimes have sleep disturbance, either not sleeping or sleeping too much. They can have appetite disturbance, usually not eating adequately, but sometimes eating too much. They can have crying spells, have irritability.

I see very often that people who have never been depressed themselves or have never been around someone who has been depressed, simply don't understand what it's like to be depressed. And they tend to be the people who say, "Snap out of it, alright? Get yourself going," and so on.

If you have mild depression there are things you can do to help pull yourself out of that. When you get moderate depression that may not be true. When you get severe depression the person has lost their ability to be a willful intervener in their symptoms.