Understanding mental health

Photo by James FischerEven though you may not be able to "see" them in the way that you see physical illnesses, mental illnesses are real, medical conditions that affect one's thoughts, feelings, mood, and physical functioning. These conditions affect the way an individual functions in all areas of daily life and can make it difficult to cope. 

Some examples of mental illnesses are major depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Like physical illnesses, treatment and recovery are possible. Supporting your loved one on the road to recovery is an important part of their journey to wellness, since recovery is closely related to the number of available resources someone has. 

Photo by James Fischer

Common Myths about Mental Illness

  • Mental illnesses are rare. Mental illnesses are very common; one out five Canadians have a mental illness. 
  • People with mental illness are weak. Having a mental illness is not a sign of weakness of character or of personal strength. Someone with mental illness cannot just "get over" their mental illness with willpower. Mental illnesses are complex and a combination of many factors, including biological/genetic factors, environment, behaviours, and life experiences. Similarly, mental illnesses are not a sign of poor parenting or upbringing. 
  • People with mental illness are crazy and violent. People with mental illness suffer from medical conditions and are not "crazy". People with mental illnesses are often portrayed by the media as being violent, however they are no more violent than anyone else.  
  • Mental illness can't be treated. Treatment for mental illnesses is possible through medication, counselling or therapy, and other supports. There is no "one size fits all" solution; some may find certain treatments work better than others, and some may find a combination of treatments works better than any one treatment alone. Treatment should be discussed between the healthcare provider and the individual to find the best course of treatment. Sometimes providers will a couple different types of treatment to find the one that fits best. Some cases may even resolve on their own. 


Facts about Mental Illness

  • Everyone can be affected by mental illness; no matter their race, religion, gender, intelligence level, or income. 
  • Mental illnesses begin early in life. 50% of all mental illnesses begin before the age of 14, and 75% of mental illnesses begin before the age of 24.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 or more likely than any other age group to have a mental illness. 
  • Treatment early on can help to boost recovery and avoid more severe problems later on. 
  •  Anxiety is the most common mental health problem among children and youth. 


Visit the WalkAlong Encyclopedia to learn more about mental health symptoms, treatment, and diagnosis.