Mental health problems can affect anyone of any age. Without the right support and treatment, mental health problems can have a serious affect on the individual and those around them.
Mental health disorders can affect you in different forms and affect people in different ways. Schizophrenia, depression and personality disorders are all types of mental health problem.
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia generally develop in old age, whereas eating disorders are more common in young people.
There is no single cause of mental health problems and the reasons why they develop are complex.
Who is affected
Mental health problems are more common in certain groups, such as:
people with poor living conditions
people from ethnic minority groups
Sometimes, people with mental health problems are discriminated against. This can lead to social problems such as homelessness, and may make the mental health problem worse.
Some mental health problems are more common in certain people. For example, women are more likely than men to have anxiety disorders and depression. Drug and alcohol addictions are more common in men, and men are also more likely to commit suicide.
Mental health problems can develop as a result of difficult life events, such as moving house, losing your job or the death of someone close to you. Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time and using illegal drugs can contribute to mental health problems, particularly in people who are already vulnerable.
Treatment and support
People with mental health problems need help and support to enable them to cope with their illness. There are many treatment options, including medication, counselling, psychotherapy and self help.
It is important that people with mental illnesses are told about the options available so they can make a decision about what treatment suits them best.
An important step in the recovery process is for the person to accept that they are ill and to want to get better. This can take time, and it is important for family and friends to be supportive.
Many support groups and charities offer advice, confidential counselling and information about the types of treatment available and where to get help.
If you look after someone who is ill or disabled, your mental health may be affected. An official report on the mental health of carers found that more than half of all carers reported symptoms of mental health issues, such as stress or depression. This is higher than in the general population.
There are a number of terms which refer to degrees of distress, confusion and disturbance that children and young people may experience.
Terms include “mental health problems”, “mental disorders” and “mental illnesses”.
The definition and symptoms of mental disorders and illnesses are described in detail in psychiatric classification systems. For example, “ICD-10” and “DSM-IV”.
These conditions are likely to be severe and enduring.
“Mental health problems”, on the other hand, generally refer to a range of milder symptoms. These might include feeling very sad, worried or angry.
The term “mental health problems” is sometimes used as an overarching term for the range of mental difficulties.