What is Mental Illness?

"Mental Illness can be characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour (or a combination of) associated with significant distress and impaired functioning over an extended period of time." (Health Canada, Report on Mental Illness, 2002).

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, depending on the type and circumstances of the mental illness. Mental illness, just like physical illness can take many forms. Listed below are some examples of mental illness:

  • Anxiety Disorders: obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder
  • Mood Disorders: depresion, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar affective disorder
  • Psychotic Disorders: schizohprenia, schizo-affective disorder
  • Personality Disorders: borderline personality disorder

Mental Illness Affects Everyone

It is estimated that 20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime and the remaining 80% will know someone with a mental illness as a family member, friend or colleague.

Myth v.s. Fact

Myth: Only people who are poor or not well educated have a mental illness.
Fact: Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of income level, education, age and culture.

Myth: Most people with a mental illness do not have a problem with substance use.
Fact: Forty to 60% of people with a mental illness will also have a substance use problem sometime in their life.

Myth: People with a mental illness are often violent and dangerous.
Fact: People with a mental illness are no more violent or dangerous than people without a mental illness. People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crimes rather than perpetrators of these crimes.

Myth: People with a mental illness are weak and should just "sanp out of it."
Fact: It is thought that mental illness is caused by a complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors. People with a mental illness don't choose to be ill and are not weak. People with a mental illness must deal with the symptoms of the illness as well as the stigma of having a mental illness.

Myth: People with a mental illness can not work.
Fact: People with a mental illness are able to lead fulfilling lives and make meaningful contributions to society whether it is through work, volunteer, art or community involvement. The following are some famous people with a mental illness:

  • John Nash, Mathematician and Nobel Prize Winner
  • Emily Carr, Artist
  • Lionel Aldridge, Football Player for the Green Bay Packers
  • Ernest Hemmingway, Novelist
  • Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister
  • Jane Fonda, Actress
  • Harrison Ford, Actor

Looking for Help?

If you or someone you care about is in crisis or distress you can call the Mental Health Crisis Line of Grey Bruce 1-877-470-5200 where caring, non-judgmental support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days of the year.

If you are looking for a particular mental health or addiction service call or visit the Community Network Support Team (link below) and a worker will provide confidential support and up-to-date information about available resources in your area.

For more information:
Community Network Support Team



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