Mental Illness

Mental health disorders are medical conditions that interfere with a person’s functioning in the world, or interfere with or disrupt his or her thoughts, feelings, or ability to relate to other people. While frequently stigmatized, they are in fact very common and are treatable. It is estimated that 26.2% of U.S. adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder each year. Approximately 6% of the adult population suffers from a serious mental illness. 5 to 9% of children have a serious mental disorder. The President’s New Freedom Commission of Mental Health (2003) estimated that the annual economic cost of mental illnesses is $79 billion, of which $63 billion is the loss of productivity of the affected individuals.

Mental illnesses can affect anyone. People of all ages, races, classes, or religions can suffer from a mental illness. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability among people aged 15-44 in the U.S.

Mental illnesses are treatable, and the treatments—both medications and various types of “talk therapy” and other psychosocial interventions—are considered highly effective. Most people will experience a significant reduction of their symptoms and an improvement in their quality of life when their illness is treated.

Serious mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Approximately 35,000 people commit suicide annually, 90% of whom have a history of mental illness. Adults with serious mental illness die 25 years younger than other Americans. Less than one-third of people with a diagnosable mental illness receive treatment. Delay of treatment frequently has negative consequences and increases the likelihood of disability.

For some people, including many of homeless people who receive services from OPCC, their mental illness is severe and persistent, and may be lifelong. While this mental illness may not be curable, mental health treatment can help a person gain an understanding of the origins of their mental distress, and to enable the person to develop strategies to manage his or her illness and minimize his or her symptoms, so that the person may live with satisfaction, achievement and independence, and in a manner that does not cause harm to self or others.