Frequently Asked Questions

What are mental illnesses?
  • Mental illnesses are brain disorders that are no-fault diseases of the brain.  The brain disorders have neurological, biochemical, genetic, and possible viral components not yet understood.  These disorders are characterized by disturbed thinking, feeling and behaviors.

What are the types of mental illness?

  • Schizophrenia, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorders (panic disorder) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Borderline Personality Disorder, and Dual Diagnosis (mental illness with either a drug and/or alcohol addiction).

What are some of the symptoms of a mental illness?

  • Disorganized thought patterns, withdrawing from social activities, or feeling out of control are common symptoms.

Is there a cure for mental illness?

  • Mental illness will not go away; however, it is treatable with medications and therapy, allowing the individual to lead a productive life.

Did I cause my loved one’s mental illness?

  • NO!  Mental illnesses are not preventable; whatever the cause, mental illness is not due to bad parenting or “personality defects”.

Do children have mental illnesses?

  • Yes!  Childhood mental illnesses are different from adult mental illnesses and are more prevalent than expected.  Yet, many children go undiagnosed and untreated because most parents, professionals, and doctors do not want to label them with a major mental illness.  They would rather label them with something more acceptable (like ADD or ADHD) and give them medications that do not work, causing the child to consistently act inappropriately, thus causing further damage to their self-esteem.

What is the main reason that individuals do not stay on their medications?

  • Side effects!  All of the psychiatric medications have side effects, some worse than others.  They range from cotton-mouth, to stomach distress, to constipation, with many others in between, such as decreased libido.  The newer medications have been designed to lower the negative effects.

What happens if I go off my medications?

  • You will decompensate, causing your symptoms to return, which could result in hospitalization.  The effectiveness of some medications are impaired when you cease taking them, which means that if you went back on that particular medication, the dosages would be higher or you may not be able to take it again.

Is mental illness the same as mental retardation?

  • No! Individuals affected by mental illness have intelligence levels of the normal population.

Besides taking my medication, is there anything else I should be doing?

  • Yes! Ongoing therapy is a major part of treatment, as well as psychosocial treatments (talk therapy, social and vocational training).  Eating healthy, exercising, getting plenty of rest, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products are things you can do that would help you control your illness.  Becoming educated about your illness is important, as well as having a good support system in place.

Family Questions

Did I cause my loved one’s mental illness?

  • NO! Mental illnesses are not preventable; whatever the cause, mental illness is not due to bad parenting or “personality defects”.

Why can’t my loved one just “snap out of it”?

  • Having a mental illness is not a question of exerting more willpower or being more disciplined. It is a brain disorder that is biologically based, with symptoms and behaviors that are not at the control of the individual. Since it affects the chemical structure of the brain, medications are necessary to reduce (and in some cases) remove the unwanted symptoms, which allows the individual to begin taking back control of his/her life. Therapy (counseling, behavior modification, etc.) of some type is especially helpful.

Should my loved one sign a release, allowing me to talk with their various medical care providers?

  • Yes! They will need to sign a release for every office they visit (doctor, therapist, case worker, etc). You have the right to give informationto your loved one’s care providers; this does not breach confidentiality. Without the signed release, the providers can not disclose information about your loved one to you, but you can give them information.

What happens if I go off my medications?

  • You will decompensate, causing your symptoms to return, which could result in hospitalization. The effectiveness of some medications are impaired when you cease taking them, which means that if you went back on that particular medication, the dosages would be higher or you may not be able to take it again.

Besides taking my medication, is there anything else I should be doing?

  • Yes! Ongoing therapy is a major part of treatment, as well as psychosocial treatments (talk therapy, social and vocational training). Eating healthy, exercising, getting plenty of rest, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products are things you can do that can help you control your illness. Becoming educated about your illness is important, as well as having a good support system in place.

How do I know which medication is best for my illness?

  • We all have different chemical structures, medications affect each person differently. There are so many new medications on the market (with more being discovered every year) that are being designed to reduce the unwanted side-effects of psychotropic medications. These new medications better target the area of the brain that is broken, thus reducing the risk of negatively affecting the healthy brain area around it. Always seek and follow your medical professional’s advice before taking any medication