Mental health awareness: what to know

A mental illness is a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood.

These conditions can impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others. Mental health conditions are far more common than you think, mainly because people don’t like to talk about them, or are scared to talk about them. However:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6 -17 experience a mental health disorder each year
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24

Capital Blue Cross can help with VirtualCare

If you’re a Capital Blue Cross member, check your plan benefits or contact your employer’s HR office to see if you have access to VirtualCare, which offers counseling sessions from the comfort and privacy of home

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A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event.

Research suggests multiple, linking causes. Genetics, environment, and lifestyle all play a part. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events. How chemicals process in the body, circuits, and basic brain structure may play a role, too.

None of this means that you’re broken or that you, or your family, did something “wrong.” Mental illness is no one’s fault. And for many people, recovery is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in the process. There is hope to return to meaningful roles in social life, school, and work.


Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include:

  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs.
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance.
  • Avoiding friends and social activities.
  • Changes in eating habits (increased hunger, lack of appetite, etc.), sex drive, or sleeping habits.
  • Feeling tired and low energy.
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning.
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people.
  • Challenges grasping reality (delusions , or experiencing and sensing things that don't exist).
  • Excessive worrying or fear.
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria.
  • Feeling excessively sad or low.
  • Having a hard time completing daily activities or handling daily problems and stress.
  • Unable to perceive changes in feelings, behavior, or personality.
  • “lack of insight” or the inability to recognize the mental health condition
  • multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • thinking about suicide

Mental health conditions can develop in young children as well.

Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include:

  • Changes in school performance.
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school.
  • frequent nightmares
  • repeated disobedience or aggression
  • recurring temper tantrums
  • hyperactive behavior

Getting a diagnosis

If you have symptoms, talk with your doctor. For many people, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in a treatment plan. Treatments for mental illness vary by diagnosis and by person. There’s no “one size fits all” approach. Treatment options can include medication, counseling (therapy), social support, and education. So knowing what your preferences and goals are will help you.

Where to get more help

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step.
  • If you or someone you know needs help now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right away at 800.273.8255, or 911.
  • You can also reach out to your primary care doctor, or state/county mental health authority for more resources.
  • Also, check to see if your employer has an Employer Assistance Program (EAP), which may offer free counseling sessions.

Interested in health and wellness information? Visit the Capital Journal for more articles.

Sources: “Know the Warning Signs | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.” National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The information provided is meant for a general audience. Capital Blue Cross and its affiliated companies believe this health education resource provides useful information but does not assume any liability associated with its use.