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Understanding Mental Illness

December 27, 2012
Sad young man

Following this month's tragedies in Newtown, Conn. and Webster, N.Y., there has been an increase in national and international discussion of mental health and illness. Effects of mental illness can include abnormal changes in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and impaired functioning.

Anyone can be affected by mental illness. According to the World Health Organization, mental illness results in more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses — including cancer and heart disease.

Other studies have reported that about 25% of all adults in the United States have a mental illness, and that nearly 50% will develop at least one mental illness in their lifetime. If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, one step you can take is to understand how and where to get help.

If you're not sure about where to go for help, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests talking to someone you trust who has experience in mental health, such as a doctor, nurse, social worker or religious counselor. Ask their advice on where to seek treatment. You can also contact local university departments of psychiatry or psychology — they may offer private or sliding-scale fee treatment options. In times of crisis, the emergency room doctor at a hospital may be able to provide temporary help, and will be able to tell you where and how to get further help.

Here in Georgia, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities has many resources available for adults and children, including hospitals, community-based services, and a 24/7 call center, the Georgia Crisis and Access Line. This access line provides language assistance, help during emergencies, crisis management, and other routine service assistance. You can call the center at 1-800-715-4225 if you or someone you know needs help.

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