Mental health encompasses one’s emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, and is an essential component of overall health. According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness is an umbrella term that “encompasses distinct diagnosable mental health ailments, disorders, diseases, and conditions, that involve changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these).” Mental illness is highly common in the United States. Data presented from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that twenty-one percent of all U.S. adults, which is equal to an estimated 52.9 million adults aged eighteen or older, in America live with AMI (any mental illness). Of the nearly one in five adults with AMI, 24.3 million (46.2%) received mental health services in the past year. In the fall of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics along with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. A report by the Surgeon General illuminates the notion that mental health conditions can be shaped by a variety of contributing factors. Identified risk factors that may influence an individual’s susceptibility to developing a mental health disorder could include the following:
- Biology: Studies have indicated that there is a genetic factor in relation to the development of mental illness. Therefore, because of one’s genes and DNA makeup some people are predisposed to mental health disorders more than others. It has also been noted that one’s gender, ethnicity, and both personal and family history of the presence of other mental disorders can contribute to one’s susceptibility for developing a mental health illness.
- Brain chemistry: when neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry signals to other parts of the brain and body) are impaired and/ or are abnormal, the function of the nerve receptors and nerve systems in one’s brain are altered, which can result in the development of mental illness. Furthermore, deviations from typical serotonin (hormone that works to stabilize one’s mood, happiness, and feelings of well-being) production could increase one’s vulnerability to mental health problems.
- Hormones: research has found that hormone imbalances could be involved in triggering or causing mental illness.
- Recreational drug and alcohol use: can cause trigger the onset of dormant mental health ailments.
- Environmental factors: growing up in an unstable, neglectful, and/ or abusive environment could increase one’s risk for developing a mental health disorder.
Mental health disorders can affect all areas of a one’s life. In many cases the pervasive symptoms associated with a diagnosed mental health illness prohibit an individual from effectively functioning in her normal activities, leaving her unable to complete simple daily tasks. Untreated mental health illnesses can lead to the development of severe short and long-term consequences.
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