What’s a Reasonable “Take Home” Message About the Mental Illness Study?
Even when you account for cultural differences and an
increase in the numbers of conditions and syndromes that psychiatrists have
added to its manual of mental disorders, there are still some extremely
significant things we’ve learned from the NCS-R study:
Mental illness begins early in life. Half of all
cases that last a lifetime begin at age 14, and 75 percent begin by age 24.
Anxiety disorders often begin in late childhood. Mood disorders tend to develop
in late adolescence. Substance abuse tends to begin in the early 20s.
Mental illness affects people in the prime of their
life. Many other illnesses are more likely to happen to people who are
older. Mental illness, on the other hand, happens to people when they would
otherwise be at the most productive phase of their lives.
There are long delays between the onset of a mental
illness and the time when treatment begins. These delays can lead to more
frequent and more severe episodes. Additionally, the longer a person waits to
get treatment, the harder the illness is to treat, and the less effective
treatment can become. Social implications can include failure in school, teen
childbearing, unstable employment and unstable and violent marriages.
The earlier an illness appears, the less likely a person
is to get treatment. In other words, the people who need treatment the most
are least likely to get it.
Individuals with one mental disorder are at high risk
for having a second one. This is called comorbidity. Forty five percent of
the people in the survey who met the criteria for one disorder also met the
criteria for one or more additional disorders. And the severity of their
conditions was higher when comorbidity was present.
The message for all of us is that if you are experiencing
symptoms of a mental disorder, or if you have a child who seems to be having
these kinds of symptoms, see your doctor. Treatment can literally change your
life, improving your relationships and your ability to use your talents and
abilities to your greatest potential.
Read more about depression
here. Read about panic attacks, obsessive
compulsive disorder and phobias
Archives of General
Psychiatry, 6 June 2005; National Institute of Mental Health, National
Comorbidity Survey Replication; A Kleinman and B Good, Culture and Depression:
Studies in the Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Psychiatry of Affect and
Disorder, University of California Press, 1985; The New York Times,
“Who’s Mentally Ill? Deciding is Often All in the Mind,” 12 June 2005; The Washington Post,
“U.S. Leads in Mental Illness, Lags in Treatment,” 7 June 2005.