Rogers Behavioral Health

What is mental illness?

Posted on 03/03/21 03:25:pm What is mental illness?


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Mental illness isn’t a choice and it’s not a weakness. Jerry Halverson, MD, DFAPA, chief medical officer, emphasizes those points when he provides overviews of mental illness and the challenges it imposes on people.

“A mental illness is a physical and/or emotional manifestation of diseases of the brain,” explains Dr. Halverson. “Caused by too much or too little of certain chemical actions in one part of the brain, this hyper/hypo activity is used to communicate and transmit messages within the brain. This may lead to symptoms that present as changes in thoughts, moods, or behaviors.”

What is the difference between mental health and mental illness?

Everyone has mental health, and similar to their physical health, they can do things that will benefit or negatively impact it. Getting more sleep and managing your stress are excellent ways to boost your mental health.

People can feel sad, happy, stressed, or relaxed as part of their mental health. Mental illness on the other hand, is something that impairs one’s ability to function by affecting their behavior, interactions, or thoughts over a longer period of time.

An example that showcases the difference between the two is public speaking. Many feel uncomfortable when having to stand in front of a group and deliver a speech. But someone with an anxiety disorder may feel that same discomfort with many interactions throughout the day—so much so that they could avoid those situations entirely.

How common is mental illness?

Mental illness is found in all races, genders, and socioeconomic classes. It affects everyone throughout the world.

“According to the World Health Organization, mental illness results in more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease,” adds Dr. Halverson. “Published studies report that about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one during their lifetime.”

Dr. Halverson continues, pointing out that behavioral health ranks third in illnesses that are most costly to treat, according to data from the Wisconsin Health Information Organization (WHIO).

“Unfortunately, the data most likely underreports these costs as it does not include substance use disorders, patients being treated for the wrong diagnosis, or for under-diagnosed patients whose illness may lead to additional unhealthy behaviors.”

Mental illness is often associated with chronic health conditions, and we know that it can lead to worsened outcomes. This in turn can lead to increased costs and complications, higher death rates, and longer hospital stays.

Finding help for mental health at Rogers

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, Rogers offers compassionate, evidence-based care for adults, adolescents, and children across the country. Call 800-767-4411 for a free, confidential screening. You can also request a screening online.

Call 800-767-4411 or go to to request a free screening.