The following quote accurately describes the dilemma in dealing with this topic:
Ask 100 Canadians this question - what is mental disorder?-and you'll likely get 100 different answers. And a lot of them will be just plain wrong. A character flaw, laziness, lack of discipline, the devil at work; such answers still pop up in public surveys.
This quote is from the book The Last Taboo: A Survival Guide to Mental Health Care in Canada. This book is on your reading list and is highly recommended as a valuable resource. As you can also tell from this quote, often the terms mental illness and mental disorder are used interchangeably. We will be using them in this capacity throughout the sessions and handouts.
Severe Mental Illnesses are:
Severe Mental Illnesses are not:
To full appreciate the magnitude of these illnesses, we have some mental illness facts and figures to share with you.
Did you know...
of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide, five are mental disorders?
How Common Are Mental Illnesses in Canada?
It is estimated that nearly 1 in 5 Canadian adults will personally experience a mental illness during a 1- year period. The following chart summarizes estimates of the prevalence of the major mental illnesses among adults in Canada.
Estimated One-Year Prevalence* of Mental Illness among Adults in Canada.
| Mental Illness|| Estimates of One-Year Prevalence|
Major (unipolar) Depression
*Estimate percentage of the population who have the disorder during any 1 year period.
The following are the estimated rate of mental illness in Canada according to the Canadian Health Network:
Mental Illness is a Physical Disease
|Illness|| Organ Affected||Signs & Symptoms||Treatment|
| *Mental Illness||Brain|
Heredity may be a factor in mental illness, as it is in diabetes and cancer.
For more statistical facts, access Health Canada's document A Report on Mental Illnesses in Canada online at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
The Myths about Mental Illness
There are many, many myths about mental illness. These myths have contributed to creating this stigma, which ahs been around for centuries. The stigma is really a result of fear and ignorance.
Commonly Held Fears
The Fear of Danger
Many people are afraid that people who have a mental illness are dangerous, unpredictable, and aggressive. In rality, people with a mental illness are usually anxious, fearful of others, and passive. The myth of danger is largely based on inaccurate and outdated cultural myths that always portrayed people with mental illness as violent, and mendia sensationalist stories about the few mentally ill people who do commit violent acts. (For example, the 1995 death of sports television reported Brian Smith in Ottawa.)
Fear of the Unknown
People often fear what they do not understand. In the past, there was extremely limited understanding about mental illness. Wild guesses were the norm for diagnosis. Some cultures believed mentall illness was the work of evil spirits, while others believed bad blood, poisons, or lack of moral integrity caused it. As people learn more about the real nature of mental illness, many of these harmful belifs will hopefully fade.
Fear of Violence
This is an illusion, reinforced by the fact that you always hear about the criminal acts perpetrated by individuas who are ill in a sensational manner-on the front page, with big bold type to emphasize or really exaggerate the issue. People with mental disorders are no more likely to commit crimes than the general population.
However individuals with untreated mental illness do have a higher rate of violence than the general population. Also, these individuals generally have a previous history of violent behaviour.
The three primary predictors of violence include: