True North

Mental Illness

Mental Illness


Many people think mental disorders are rare. But the truth is that mental illness is common.

Mental illness is a disease. Mental illness is real.

A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to significant problems in thinking, behavior, and/or emotion that can result in difficulties coping with life challenges and routines. You likely know of the more common disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder. They may be caused by reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.

With the proper care and treatment, most people with mental illness can achieve symptomatic and functional recovery. They are able to learn to cope with their illness and continue functioning in their daily lives. Mental illness is real and highly treatable (Saddleback Resources).


Identifying the difference between typical behaviors and signs of mental illness can be challenging. There are early warning signs that may indicate the onset of mental illness. The signs or symptoms may be different in adults and children.

Adults, Young Adults, and Adolescents: confused thinking, prolonged depression which can appear as feelings of sadness or irritability, extreme highs and lows, excessive fears, worries and anxieties, social withdrawal, dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits, strong feelings of anger, strange thoughts (delusions), seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations), a growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities, suicidal thoughts, numerous unexplained physical ailments, substance abuse

Older Children and Pre-Adolescents: substance abuse, inability to cope with problems and daily activities, changes in sleeping and/or eating habits, excessive complaints of physical ailments, changes in ability to manage responsibilities at home and/or at school, defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism, intense fear, prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts or death, frequent outbursts of anger

Younger Children: changes in school performance, poor grades despite strong efforts, changes in sleeping and/or eating habits, excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school), hyperactivity, persistent nightmares, persistent disobedience or aggression, frequent temper tantrums


It’s important to be aware of life events and circumstances that can elicit a mental health crisis or mental illness. Several common triggers for mental health challenges include the following: loss of a loved one, divorce or separation, teasing or bullying, any major transition such as a new home, new school, new job, traumatic life experiences such as living through a natural disaster such as rape, abuse, war, car accident, or the death of a loved one