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Your UCP: National September 11, 2003
Media & Public Awareness

Etiquette Tips

People with Mental Illness

FACTS

  • "Mental illness" is a term used to refer to a variety of disorders that cause mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, sometimes resulting in an inability to cope effectively with the ordinary demands and routines of life.
  • Most people believe that mental illnesses are rare. In fact, mental illnesses are common. An estimated 54 million Americans experience a mental illness in a given year (Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, 1999).

  • With proper treatment, people with mental illnesses can lead healthy and productive lives, including employment. The treatment success rate for mental illness is often higher than for physical illness.
  • Many people with mental illness do not receive treatment because of stigma, and lack of access to appropriate health care. Nearly 2/3 of those that experience a mental disorder do not seek treatment (Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, 1999).
  • Violence by people with mental illness is not common. A study by the MacArthur Foundation, published in 1998, found that individuals discharged from psychiatric hospitals are no more likely to be violent than their neighbors (except in the cases involving substance abuse). In fact, individuals with schizophrenia are more often the victims of violent crimes, not the aggressors (British Columbia Schizophrenia Society, 1997).
  • The most common mental illnesses include:
    Anxiety disorders: phobias, panic disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders
    Mood Disorders: major (or clinical) depression; bipolar disorder and dysthymia
    Schizophrenia and Related: schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
    Eating Disorders: anorexia and bulimia

INTERACTION TIPS

  • Persons with mental illness are people, first and foremost, and should be treated as such.
  • Interact with individuals based on your experience with that person, not on assumptions about mental illness or a particular diagnosis.
  • With one in five individuals experiencing mental illness every year, you are likely already be interacting with someone who has a mental illness.

EXAMPLES OF ACCOMMODATIONS

  • Adapted/flexible work schedule
  • Shifting of marginal functions

Thank you to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) for providing information for this section.


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