Understanding Mental Illness

Mental illness includes a range of specific conditions that cause serious disturbance in thoughts, feelings and perceptions severe enough to affect you or a loved one's day-to-day life. There are many different types of mental illness; each has its own specific pattern of symptoms.

Some common mental illnesses are schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder and anxiety disorders. Symptoms of mental illness often occur in cycles. An episode can last from weeks to months with times when no symptoms are evident. With children, these changes may be even more frequent. People will also differ in how severe their symptoms are.  Mental illness, especially if left untreated, will affect their -  or their loved one’s - quality of life. It will also affect the people around them. 

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Debi Noye developed an Acquired Brain Injury after a suicide attempt. Here, she shares how her life has changed and how she keeps putting "one foot in front of the other."


Debi Noye shares her experience with mental illness and how, finally, she got help.

Debi Noye shares her experience with peer support and how it helped her find a "spark of hope."


Sheila Morrison explores the process for getting help if you or a loved one is living with a mental illness.

Anna Quon writes that for someone living with depression, it is important to be able to recognize when a low day is just that and not something more.

As individuals, we have a range of moods that we experience and we have some control over how everyday things affect our moods. When our moods begin to control us, change frequently, or stay the same for a long period of time, a mood disorder may be the reason.

We all experience times when we feel low or sad. For someone living with depression, feeling sad can grow into a feeling of complete hopelessness. Depression is a serious illness that has a profound impact on the person and the people around them. Getting help early, and having a supportive network of friends, family and health care professionals, is critical for treatment and recovery.

Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is an illness that affects thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behavior. It even makes a difference in how a person feels physically - known clinically as psychosomatic presentations.These severe mood swings are not necessarily related to events in the person’s life.

Bipolar disorder affects approximately one per cent of the population. It typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and affects men and women equally.

Bipolar disorder can be treated. Many of the treatments have been improved over the years, and research shows new advances to help those living with this illness to lead normal and healthy lives.

Listening to our parents growing up, we probably heard a lot about weather and the connection to our health. Whether it is through arthritis or mood, most of us recognize that the weather has an impact on our emotional and physical health. A ray of sunshine breaking through an overcast sky can lift our spirits. A dull, rainy day can make us feel a little gloomy.

One of the most important steps toward recovering from an eating disorder is recognizing that you need help.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. According to recent studies, one in 11 Canadians currently has Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.

Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binging and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to offset the effects of binge eating.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. It is the most fatal of all psychiatric illnesses. Mortality rates after 20 years are between 15-20 per cent.

Schizophrenia affects an estimated 1 in 100 Canadians and their families. There isn’t yet widespread agreement on the cause of schizophrenia. While there is no cure, there are effective treatments. Many people living with schizophrenia manage symptoms, and enjoy a full life, with the help of treatment.

It can be difficult for family and friends to know how to help when someone they love has an eating disorder. Here, we offer some guidelines  to help you help your loved one.

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Understanding Mental Health

Mental health (or well-being) is a balance of mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual health. Caring relationships, a place to call home, a supportive community, and work and leisure all contribute to mental health. No one’s life is perfect; mental health is also about handling life’s ups and downs.

When you feel you don't have this balance, or you feel you can't handle life's challenges well, it can affect your mental health. These changes and challenges can get in the way of you enjoying your life.

You and your family will benefit from learning how to enhance and protect your mental health.