Boynton Beach 
Mental Health Committee

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Frequently Asked Question Regarding MENTAL HEALTH 

1. What is Mental Health? The term mental health refers to a state of wellbeing in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stressors of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her society.

2. What does it mean to have a Mental Illness? Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

3. What are the causes of mental illness? Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events. As with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. They may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these. With proper care and treatment many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder. Mental health problems cannot be overcome by “will power” and are not related to a person’s character or intelligence.

4. Is mental illness common? Most people believe that mental disorders are rare and “happen to someone else."  In fact, mental disorders are common and widespread.  An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year. Most families are not prepared to cope with learning their loved one has a mental illness. It can be physically and emotionally trying, and can make us feel vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others. If you think you or someone you know may have a mental or emotional problem, it is important to remember there is hope and help.

5. What are some of the early signs of mental illness? Some of the early signs of mental illness include: an inability to cope with problems and daily activities; frequent outbursts of anger; disinterest in activities that were once positive and productive; changes in sleeping and eating patterns; defiance of authority; suicidal thoughts; changes in school performance; evidence of hyperactivity. Because the first symptoms of mental illness typically occur two to four years before the onset of a full-blown disorder, primary care clinicians play a central role in the prevention, identification, and treatment of mental health problems in children. With national statistics indicating that 11% of children suffer from a significant mental illness, prevention and early intervention efforts are essential to better long-term outcomes.

6. How serious can mental illness be? Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. Even though mental health issues are widespread in the population, the main burden of serious mental illness is concentrated in a smaller population. About 1 in 7 Americans suffer from a serious mental illness.

7. Once someone has a mental illness can they ever get better? Most people with mental illness who are diagnosed and treated early will respond well and live productive lives. With appropriate effective medication and a wide range of services tailored to their needs, most people who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence. A key concept is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process.

8. How do I find a local support group? Contact NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, PBC; 561-588-3477

Resources: Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Helpful websites to learn more about mental illness:

  1. National Institutes of Health
  2. Center for School Mental Health
  4. Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County
  5. Psychcentral
  6. National Alliance on Mental Illness of Palm Beach County
  7. Mayo Clinic
  8. Autism Speaks
  9. Children's Mental Health

Taking the next step

Where do I get help for my depressed son who is drinking and isolating himself?

Contact your son’s school counselor or medical provider and indicate the problems he is experiencing.

• What do I do when my teenage daughter is talking about suicide and she refuses to get help?

Call 911 to get immediate assistance.

• What can I do to help my 77 year old husband who is becoming easily agitated and forgetful?

Contact his primary physician ASAP and inform him/her of the problem.

• How can I help my thirteen year old son who is becoming disruptive in the classroom and appears to be depressed?

Contact his school guidance counselor immediately and request a conference ASAP.