A mental illness is a brain disorder that can affect thinking, feeling, moods, and the ability to relate to others. Mental illness is a real illness that can affect people of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illness includes a wide range of problems, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, schizophrenia, eating disorders, mood disorders, and many others. Many mental illnesses have known causes and many treatment options. Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, yet mental illness is not well understood by most people.
One in five families is affected by a severe mental illness, yet it is not usually discussed in the average home. Our schools educate children on the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes as early as elementary school. However, mental health issues are generally not taught until high school health classes.
Mental illness can be scary. Friends and others may tell the child stories which may not be true. Teach children the facts.
If your child has symptoms of a mental health problem, he or she might be relieved to know that someone is there to help.
Help the child understand that a mentally ill person may do or say things in a different way than usual, may not be able to do the things they usually do, or may have to go into the hospital even when you cannot see anything wrong with them. Help the child understand that the person has an illness and that many other people have it. There are treatments for it, just like a heart problem.
For more facts about mental health, contact:
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
Web site: http://www.nami.org