Frequently Asked Questions

What is good mental health?

Mental health is how a person thinks, feels and acts when faced with life’s situations and problems. Mental health can be considered a continuum between feeling healthy and ill. For most individuals, good mental health can be maintained through proper diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Many people find that at some point in their lives, therapy and/or medication is needed to maintain mental health.

How common is mental illness?
Each year approximately 54 million Americans (1 in 5 people) experience mental illness. Like most other illnesses, mental illness is minor for some and debilitating for others. Mental illness may be a short-term illness or become chronic. The severity and length of illness may depend on the type of disorder, treatment available to the individual, and how well the chemistry of the individual responds to treatment.

20% of children 9 to 17 years old experience a mental or addictive disorder each year—approximately 4 children in a classroom of 20! It has been estimated that each year 11% of children have significant social/emotional impairment due to a mental or addictive disorder.

What causes mental illness?
An individual may be at risk for mental illness for a variety of reasons. An individual may be genetically predisposed or chemically imbalanced, may have had prenatal exposure to an illness or other problem, or may be experiencing stress, poverty, or other difficulties; all of these factors can increase a person’s chance for developing a mental illness.
Can a person with mental illness still be productive?
Many persons with mental illness lead very productive lives! Individuals who have experienced mental illness include Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Woolf, Ludwig van Beethoven, Tennessee Williams, Vincent Van Gogh, Isaac Newton, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens.

In the last few years, the stigma and shame around having a mental illness has been reduced by courageous celebrities who have shared their stories and struggle with recovery from mental illness. These people include Catherine Zeta Jones, Mel Gibson, Brooke Shields, Carrie Fisher, Emma Thompson, Elton John and Craig Ferguson.

No less courageous are the staff, volunteers, members and friends of Mental Health America of the Heartland who dedicate time and support to helping others to understanding and recovery, and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who live with those illnesses every day.

Once a person becomes mentally ill, can they recover?
Therapy and medications have been found to be very successful. Eighty percent of persons with bipolar disorder and 90% of persons with depression can be treated effectively. This rate is better than the rate of recovery from a triple bypass surgery! Sadly up to 70% of children and adults experiencing mental illness do not get the treatment they need.
Why don’t people who have mental illness get treatment?
There are a number of answers to this question. Stigma and shame around having a mental illness prevent many people from seeking help. Unfair limitations of insurance benefits (higher deductibles and co-pays, fewer covered visits) keep others from getting help.

Additionally, spending for mental health services is very low. Despite statistics that show that untreated mental illness is the greatest cause of disability worldwide 66% of countries surveyed by the World Health Organization devote less than 1% of their budget to the treatment of mental illness!