FAQ - NAMI - Greater Des Moines
FAQ - NAMI - Greater Des Moines
FAQ

FAQ

What is a Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses are brain disorders (Brain and Behavior Research Foundation). They are not defects in someone‘s personality or a sign of poor moral character or lack of faith. They certainly do not mean that the ill person is a failure. Chemical imbalances in the brain, from unknown or incompletely known causes, are much of the reason for symptoms of mental illnesses.

Mental illnesses are like other organ diseases in which body chemistry changes. The abnormal chemistry of mental illnesses affects brain function the same way that too little or too much of other body chemicals damage the heart, kidneys or liver. A heart attack is a symptom of serious heart disease, just as hearing voices, mood swings, withdrawal from social activities, or feeling out of control are common symptoms of a mental illness.
 
Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion, education or income level. As you read this, five million people here in the United States are dealing with serious, chronic brain disorder. Major brain disorders include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depression), major depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
 
There are many points on the continuum of wellness, and different degrees of recovery that can be reached with medication, therapy, and a strong support system.
 
From "In Our Own Voice"

Mental illnesses are brain disorders.  They are not defects in someone’s personality or a sign of poor moral character or lack of faith. They certainly do not mean that the ill person is a failure.  Chemical imbalances in the brain, from unknown or incompletely known causes, are much of the reason for symptoms of mental illnesses.

Mental illnesses are like other organ diseases in which body chemistry changes.  The abnormal chemistry of mental illnesses affects brain function the same way that too little or too much of other body chemicals damage the heart, kidneys or liver.

A heart attack is a symptom of serious heart disease, just as hearing voices, mood swings, withdrawal from social activities, or feeling out of control are common symptoms of a mental illness.

Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion, education or income level.  As you read this, five million people here in the United States are dealing with serious, chronic brain disorder.  Major brain disorders include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depression), major depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

There are many points on the continuum of wellness, and different degrees of recovery that can be reached with medication, therapy, and a strong support system.

 

Who can "get" a Mental Illness?

Mental illness is NOT contagious. It is not like a cold or the flu. Just like you can't catch bad eyesight or asthma from someone, you can't catch mental illness.

However, just like you can inherit bad eyesight or asthma from your parents, some types of mental illnesses can run in families. This does not mean that someone with mental illness in their family will also have a mental illness. It means that their chances of having a mental illness may be slightly higher than the chances of someone who doesn't have mental illness in their family.
 
Unfortunately kids can also develop a mental illnesses. Some kinds of mental illnesses are more common in kids, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), while other kinds are more common in adults, such as schizophrenia. But there is no absolute dividing line.
 
Mental illnesses do not discriminate.  Mental illness is an equal opportunity disease.  Intelligence, honors, beauty, riches, religious conviction – none provide immunity.  It strikes families from all walks of life regardless of age, race, income, religion, or education.

 

What's the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

American Psychiatric Association Website 

American Psychological Association Website

A psychiatrist can prescribe medications, diagnose and treat mental disorders.  

A psychologist can diagnose and treat mental disorders.  In Iowa, with additional required training, they may be eligible to prescribe.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and a psychologist has a doctoral-level degree in psychology.

Psychologists receive graduate training in psychology and pursue either a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) in clinical or counseling psychology. Doctorate programs typically take five to seven years to complete and most states require an additional one or two year long internship in order to gain licensure. Other states require an additional year or two of supervised practice before granting full licensure.

Psychiatrists are physicians that have specific training in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists attend medical school and receive an M.D. After finishing their medical training, they also complete an additional four years of residency training in mental health. In addition to this, some receive additional training in a specific area of interest such as geriatric psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, addictions and other areas.

 

 

What is recovery?

Recovery does not mean persons with mental illness have been cured - Recovery involves the management of symptoms and emerges from hope – it is

  • The process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities.
  • The ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite a disability.
  • It implies reduction or complete remission of symptoms.
  • It is a deeply personal process of (re)gaining physical, spiritual, mental and emotional balance.
  • A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential.

Core components  - Health, Home, Purpose, and Community

Health – overcoming or managing one’s disease or symptoms – making informed and healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.

Home – a stable and safe place to live

Purpose – meaningful daily activities – job, school, volunteerism, caretaking, creative pursuits  with income and resources to participate in society

Community – relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

        

 

 

What advice for the media do you have regarding reporting on suicide?

The World Health Organization has a Guide for Media in Reporting Suicides.  Click here to access it.

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