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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Eating disorders are complex and serious. Food, eating and body image difficulties become the language through which a person expresses concerns about themselves. Two types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

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.

With any illness - whether physical or mental -  it is crucial to have all the information you need in order to make decisions about  your care.

We have learned so much about mental illness, its causes and its treatment, in the last 50 years. Yet there are common myths that persist. It is important that these myths be understood – and dismissed, according to NARSAD, the world’s largest charity dedicated to mental health research.

Everyone experiences symptoms of mental illness differently.  Here are some general symptoms that may affect your - or a loved one’s - behaviour, thinking, mood, perception, and social interaction.

Psychotherapy is a way for mental health professionals to help individuals reduce or eliminate emotional problems. The key to psychotherapy is the special and trusting nature of the therapeutic relationship that develops over time.

Psychotherapy is a way for mental health professionals to help individuals reduce or eliminate emotional problems. It usually relies on communication betweenan individual and a therapist as the main method for change and growth. This involves working together to understand the difficulties, consider the options and work on solutions.

For many, managing mental illness requires discipline, self-reliance, perseverance and a tremendous amount of support.  Perhaps most important though is the realization that it is possible to manage mental illness. 

Your recovery is based on you managing your illness. You do this with the support and help of your family and friends, your doctor and other people who become a part of your support circle.

There are warning signs of relapse just as there are warning signs that a person has a mental illness.

Anna Quon discovered that giving up a nine-to-five job offered more opportunities to express herself and be successful.

Anna Quon shares how volunteering made a huge difference in her recovery and inspired her to begin writing.

Sheila Morrison shares a true story about a woman who needed a little help to accomplish an everyday task.

Anna Quon asks why her doctor seems to see only her limitations, not her achievements.

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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.