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Understanding Mental Illness

Mental illnesses can take many forms, just as physical illnesses do. Mental illnesses are still feared and misunderstood by many people, but the fear will disappear as people learn more about them. If you, or someone you know, has a mental illness, there is good news: all mental illnesses can be treated.
In this section, you will learn about mental illnesses – which can also be called psychiatric disorders – and their treatment. You will also find helpful resources that provide more information to further your understanding of mental illness.

A Sibling’s Guide to Psychosis: Information, Ideas and ResourcesAs part of a national project to raise awareness about first-episode psychosis and support the needs of families affected by the illness, the Canadian Mental Health Association has developed this sibling resource guide – a guide intended to provide information and support to teens and young adults who have a brother or sister experiencing psychosis.

Anxiety DisordersWe all feel nervous or worried at times. This anxiety can be a helpful feeling when it motivates us or warns us of danger. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act.

Children, youth, and depressionWhile we may think of low mood or other challenges as adult problems, they can affect people at any age. Children and teens can experience mental illnesses like depression. Sometimes it can be difficult for adults to understand how difficult children’s problems can be because we look at their problems through adult eyes. But the pressures of growing up can be very hard for some children. It’s important that we remind ourselves that while their problems may seem unimportant to us, they can feel overwhelming to young people. It’s important to take depression in young people seriously.

Depression and Bipolar DisorderWe all experience changes in our mood. Sometimes we feel energetic, full of ideas, or irritable, and other times we feel sad or down. But these moods usually don’t last long, and we can go about our daily lives. Depression and bipolar disorder are two mental illnesses that change the way people feel and make it hard for them to go about their daily routine.

Eating DisordersEvery day, we are surrounded by different messages from different sources that impact the way we feel about the way we look. For some, poor body image is a sign of a serious problem: an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not just about food. They are often a way to cope with difficult problems or regain a sense of control. They are complicated illnesses that affect a person’s sense of identity, worth, and self-esteem.

GrievingLoss is one of life’s most stressful events. It takes time to heal, and everyone responds differently. We may need help to cope with the changes in our lives. Grief is part of being human, but that doesn’t mean we have to go through the journey alone.

Mental IllnessWhat do you think of when you hear that someone is experiencing a mental illness? Some people feel concern, fear, or confusion. Some even avoid those who experience mental illnesses. But mental illnesses are just like any other illness: everyone deserves care, help, and support.

Mental Illnesses in the WorkplaceWork is important to our well-being. In addition to the income it brings, it can be a big part of our identity, how we understand our skills, and a way to contribute to something bigger. However, a mental illness can have a big impact on the way we work.

 

Myths About Mental Illness

Mental illnesses affect everyone in some way. We all likely know someone who has experienced a mental illness at some point. Yet there are still many hurtful attitudes around mental illnesses that fuel stigma and discrimination and make it harder to reach out for help. It’s time to look at the facts.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Many of us have small habits that make us feel better, but we can also live without them. For example, we might think of something as ‘lucky’ or have a routine that feels comforting. But for people who experience obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these behaviours are much more intense and disruptive and are fuelled by unwanted thoughts that don’t go away. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not always easy to understand, but it’s a real illness that causes difficulties in a person’s life.

Phobias and Panic DisordersEveryone feels scared at times. But sometimes, fear can come up in a situation that isn’t expected. This fear stops us from going about our usual routines or working towards our goals. Phobias and panic disorder are two examples of mental illnesses that can lead to these problems.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Frightening situations happen to everyone at some point. People can react in many different ways: they might feel nervous, have a hard time sleeping well, or go over the details of the situation in their mind. These thoughts or experiences are a normal reaction. They usually decrease over time and the people involved can go back to their daily lives. Post-traumatic stress disorder, on the other hand, lasts much longer and can seriously disrupt a person’s life.

Postpartum DepressionBringing a new baby into the family can be challenging at the best of times, both physically and emotionally. It is natural for new parents to experience mood swings, feeling joyful one minute and depressed the next. These feelings are sometimes known as the “baby blues,” and often go away soon after birth. However, some parents may experience a deep and ongoing depression that lasts much longer. This is called postpartum depression.

Preventing SuicideSuicide. It’s a difficult topic to bring up. However, when someone talks about suicide or brings up concern for a loved one, it’s important to take action and seek help quickly.

SchizophreniaSchizophrenia is a serious mental illness. One of the biggest myths around the illness is that it isn’t treatable. With the right supports, people can work or volunteer, be active in their own care, and contribute to their communities.

Youth and Self-InjuryPeople cope with difficult thoughts, feelings, or situations in different ways. Some people cope by injuring themselves on purpose—and it may be the only way for them to feel better. Self-injury may seem frightening, but it’s important to look beyond the injuries and see what’s really going on.