The first week of October marks Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW) and ends with World Mental Health Day on October 10. The National Association on Mental Illness ( states:

Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. However, mental illness affects everyone directly or indirectly through family, friends or coworkers. Despite mental illnesses’ reach and prevalence, stigma and misunderstanding are also, unfortunately, widespread.

That is why each year, during the first week of October, NAMI and participants across the country raise awareness of mental illness. Each year, we educate the public, fight stigma and provide support. And each year, our movement grows stronger.

We believe that mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, but highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice. Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), advocates have worked together to sponsor activities, large or small, to educate the public about mental illness

Below is a brief summary of some common mental illnesses with information about symptoms, treatment and links for more information. For much more information about these and other disorders, please see

On this page (click for section):

General Mental Illnesses



Bipolar Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


General Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses are disorders that can cause psychological and behavioral disturbances with varying severities. The “ripple effect” of mental illness is substantial. According to the National Association on Mental Illness:

The Ripple Effect Of Mental Illness


  • People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions.
  • 19.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2018 (9.2 million individuals)
  • The rate of unemployment is higher among U.S. adults who have mental illness (5.8%) compared to those who do not (3.6%)
  • High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers


  • At least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue
  • Caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care


  • Mental illness and substance use disorders are involved in 1 out of every 8 emergency department visits by a U.S. adult (estimated 12 million visits)
  • Mood disorders are the most common cause of hospitalization for all people in the U.S. under age 45 (after excluding hospitalization relating to pregnancy and birth)
  • Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year
  • 20.1% of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. have a serious mental health condition
  • 37% of adults incarcerated in the state and federal prison system have a diagnosed mental illness
  • 70.4% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosed mental illness
  • 41% of Veteran’s Health Administration patients have a diagnosed mental illness or substance use disorder


  • Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year 
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide


Mental Health Statistics and Facts (2020)

  • 450 million people worldwide currently suffer from a mental illness, according to a report published by the World Health Organization.
  • Over 40% of countries lack a mental health policy, whereas 30% have no program regarding mental health.
  • To make matters worse, it is estimated that around 25% of countries do not even mention mental health in their legislation. This lack of recognition is directly responsible for the exponential decrease in mental health worldwide.
  • Mental illnesses are among the leading causes of disability and disease worldwide.  It is estimated that depression represents the fourth leading cause associated with the worldwide disease burden, according to mental health statistics. If things do not change in the near future, they will reach the second spot by 2020, right after heart disease.
  • 1 in 4 Americans currently suffers from at least one mental illness.
  • 1 in 5 teens suffer from a mental illness, yet many do not seek help.
  • Most Americans who have committed suicide were suffering from a mental health disorder. Suicidal tendencies are more prevalent in people who suffer from a substance abuse disorder or from depression. 
  • Around 9.5% of US citizens above 18 years old encounter a depressive illness every year.
  • US women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men.
  • Antidepressants coupled with psychotherapy can help up to 60% of people suffering from depressive disorders to recover.
  • 18% of Americans ages 18–54 are suffering from an anxiety-related disorder. Anxiety has taken its toll on US citizens.
  • Studies show that more than 80% of people suffering from a schizophrenic disorder can reduce symptoms and the possibility of relapses if medical treatment, alongside family intervention, is offered.

Understanding that mental illnesses exist and are considered real diseases is the first step towards taking care of loved ones affected by these conditions. We hope that in the future, medical professionals and analysts will continue studying mental health, leading to the development of smarter therapies and more efficient drugs. 

The stigma associated with mental health stops people from seeking help, leading to worsening symptoms, disability, and sadly, sometimes to suicide.

Common types of mental illness disorders

Click on the name


Major Depressive Disorder is a mental illness with symptoms that affect a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Depression is widespread but poorly understood by the population. Left untreated, depression can be devastating for those who live with symptoms and their families.

17 million adults in the U.S. – 7% of the population – had at least one major depression episode last year. People of all ages and racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience depression.


Depression can present differently depending on the person.  For most people, depression disorder changes how they function day to day and typically lasts more than two weeks.

  • Change in sleep
  • Change in appetite
  • Lack of ability to concentrate
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts


  • Trauma
  • Genetics
  • Life circumstances
  • Brain changes
  • Other medical conditions such as ADHD and hypothyroidism
  • Drug and alcohol misuse: 21% of those who misuse drugs and/or alcohol experienced major depressive episodes in 2018.  Co-occuring disorders require coordinated treatment for both conditions, as alcohol can worsen depression symptoms.


To be diagnosed with depressive disorder a person must have experienced a depressive episode lasting longer than two weeks.


Many treatment options are available for depression, but how well the treatment works depends on the type of depression and its severity.  For most, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is the best treatment.

For more information on depression from NAMI click here.
TedxTalks: Getting stuck in the negative (and how to get unstuck)

Anxiety Disorders

All anxiety disorders have in common persistent fear, and excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.

Types of anxiety disorders:

  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobias

People living with anxiety experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Feelings of apprehensiveness or dread
  • Tense or jumpy restlessness or irritability
  • Anticipating the worst; hypervigilant – always watchful for signs of danger
  • Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea


  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications
  • Holistic and complementary healthcare approaches

For more information on anxiety from NAMI click here.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels that affect a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. These shifts in mood and energy levels are more severe than the normal ups and downs that are experienced by everyone.

Bipolar disorder is:

  • A serious mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings.
  • Very common (more than 3 million cases per year in US)
  • Does not require lab test or imaging for diagnosis
  • Treatment from medical professional advised
  • Can last several years or be lifelong

How common is bipolar disorder? Based on diagnostic interview data from National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R):

  • An estimated 2.8% of U.S. adults had bipolar disorder in the past year.
  • Past year prevalence of bipolar disorder among adults was similar for males (2.9%) and females (2.8%).
  • An estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.

Bipolar disorder can cause severe impairment: Based on the Sheehan Disability Scale:

  • An estimated 82.9% of people with bipolar disorder had serious impairment, the highest percentage of serious impairment among mood disorders.
  • An estimated 17.1% had moderate impairment.


Symptoms can last for a period of a few weeks, months, or even years.

The manic phase is characterized by:

  • Extreme happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Irritability, anger, fits of rage and hostile behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Rapid speech
  • Poor concentration and judgment
  • Increased energy
  • Less need for sleep
  • Unusually high sex drive
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Paranoia

The depressive phase may include:

  • Sadness and crying
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Irritability
  • Need for more sleep or sleeplessness
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts at suicide

Patients may experience no symptoms during periods between episodes of mania and depression.


Treatment is generally a combination of oral medications and psychotherapy.


  • Psychotherapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)


  • Mood stabilizersHelp control extreme mood variations
  • Antipsychotic drugsHelp reduce symptoms of psychosis such as illusion, hallucination, etc.
  • AntidepressantsHelps stabilize the mood swings
  • Anti-anxiety drugsReduces anxiousness

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD

Overview:  Traumatic events—such as accident, military combat or natural disaster can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health.  Many people have short-term effects from life-threatening events, some will develop longer term symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).  Often PSTD co-exist with other conditions such as substance disorders, depression and anxiety.  A comprehensive medical evaluation and  individualized treatment plan is optimal.

PTSD affects an estimated 3.6% of the U.S. adult population – about 9 million individuals. About 37% of those diagnosed with PTSD are classified as having severe symptoms. Women are significantly more likely to experience PSTD than men.


  • “Re-experiencing” aspects of the traumatic event, flashbacks of the trauma, bad dreams, intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidance: A person might actively avoid places or situations that activate overwhelming symptoms
  • Cognitive and mood symptoms, which can include trouble recalling the event, negative thoughts about one’s self.  Other feelings may include emotional numbness, guilt, worry or depression. Cognitive symptoms in some instances may include “out of body” experiences or feeling that the world is “not real”
  • Arousal symptoms: examples might include being intensely startled by stimuli that reminds them of the trauma, trouble sleeping or angry outbursts

Children can also develop PTSD, and symptoms differ from adults.  It is extremely important that children be evaluated by a professional skilled in the developmental responses to stressful events. A pediatrician or child mental health professional can be a good start.


Symptoms of PTSD usually begin three months after the traumatic event. Occasionally, symptoms may develop years after the event.  For a diagnosis of PTSD, symptoms must last more than one month. Symptoms of depression, anxiety or substance use often accompany PTSD and may also require treatment.


PTSD can be managed and treated in different ways:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications
  • Self-management strategies
  • Service animals, especially dogs, can help soothe some of the symptoms of PTSD.

Symptoms of depression, anxiety or substance use often accompany PTSD and may also require treatment.

For more information from NAMI on PTSD click here.


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized speech and behavior. It is:

  • Very common (more than 3 million cases per year in US)
  • Often requires lab test or imaging to diagnose
  • Treatment from medical professional advised
  • Can be lifelong

Quick Facts About Schizophrenia

  • Schizophrenia can be found in approximately 1.1% of the world’s population, regardless of racial, ethnic or economic background.
  • Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with schizophrenia and it is one of the leading causes of disability.
  • Three-quarters of persons with schizophrenia develop the illness between 16 and 25 years of age.
  • The disorder is at least partially genetic.
  • To be diagnosed as having schizophrenia, one must experience associated symptoms for at least six months.
  • Studies have indicated that 25% of those with schizophrenia recover completely, 50% are improved over a 10-year period, and 25% do not improve over time.
  • Treatment and other economic costs due to schizophrenia are enormous, estimated between $32.5 and $65 billion annually in the US.
  • Between one-third and one-half of all homeless adults have schizophrenia.
  • 50% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia have received no treatment.


The symptoms of schizophrenia may vary depending on the individual and usually include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations and illusions
  • Agitation
  • Flat affect – lack of emotional expression
  • Disordered thinking
  • Inappropriate reactions
  • Phobia(s)
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in activities


  • Psychotherapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Family counseling


Treatment often involves administration of antipsychotics, also known as neuroleptic medications, which are used for treating symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking.