Mental Health and Mental Illness

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Can mental health disorders be prevented?

A variety of factors can contribute to the prevention of mental-health disorders. For example, people who feel less isolated and alone tend to be less likely to develop a mental-health disorder. Those who engage in regular practice of endurance exercise seem to have a more favorable self-image, more resistance to drug and alcohol addiction, and a higher sense of general physical and psychological well-being compared to those who do not exercise regularly. Adolescents who engage regularly in physical activity are characterized by lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to their more sedentary counterparts.

Clear communication by parents about the negative effects of alcohol, as well as about their expectations regarding drug use, has been found to significantly decrease alcohol and other drug use in teens. Adequate parental supervision has also been found to be a deterrent to substance use in children and adolescents. Alcohol and other drug use has been found to occur most often between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., immediately after school and prior to parents' arrival home from work. Teen participation in extracurricular activities has therefore been revealed to be an important measure in preventing use of alcohol in this age group. Parents can also help educate teens about appropriate coping and stress-management strategies. For example, 15- to 16-year-olds who use religion to cope with stress tend to use drugs significantly less often and have less problems as a result of drinking than their peers who do not use religion to cope.

What is the prognosis for mental-health problems?

Individuals with mental illness are at risk for a variety of challenges. For example, children who have either a father or mother who have been psychiatrically hospitalized seem to be at higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Depression in adults can lead to a significantly greater likelihood of health risk factors such as a lack of physical activity, smoking, binge drinking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poor health. Fortunately, treatment for mental illness can go a long way to restoring the emotional and behavioral health of individuals with mental illness.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/19/2015

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