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Many people may think that mental health disorders are rare; however, they are far more common and widespread than you could ever imagine.According to Mental Health America (www.mhah.org), an estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year.

Mental Health America is the nation's largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans live mentally healthier lives, and has more than 300 affiliates across the country.  This section contains information from Mental Health America about mental illness, signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, and tips for seeking help.  If you have any questions, or wish to learn about available behavioral health services for Fulton County residents, please call the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities at (404) 613-3675 from 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM Monday thru Friday.  For after hours assistance, please contact the Georgia Crisis & Access Line at 1-800-715-4225.


Web Photo - Mental Health

A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life's ordinary demands and routines.  There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events. As with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances or a combination of these. With proper care and treatment, many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder.


Depressed Individual

Accept your feelings

  • Despite the different symptoms and types of mental illnesses, many families who have a loved one with mental illness, share similar experiences. You may find yourself denying the warning signs, worrying what other people will think because of the stigma, or wondering what caused your loved one to become ill.  Accept that these feelings are normal and common among families going through similar situations. Find out all you can about your loved one's illness by reading and talking with mental health professionals. Share what you have learned with others.

Handling unusual behavior

  • The outward signs of a mental illness are often behavioral . Individuals may be extremely quiet or withdrawn. Conversely, he or she may burst into tears or have outbursts of anger.  Even after treatment has started, individuals with a mental illness can exhibit anti-social behaviors. When in public, these behaviors can be disruptive and difficult to accept.  The next time you and your family member visit your doctor or mental health professional, discuss these behaviors and develop a strategy for coping.

Establishing a support network

  • Whenever possible, seek support from friends and family members.  If you feel you cannot discuss your situation with friends or other family members, find a self-help or support group. These groups provide an opportunity for you to talk to other people who are experiencing the same type of problems.  They can listen and offer valuable advice.

Seeking counseling

  • Therapy can be beneficial for both the individual with mental illness and other family members. A mental health professional can suggest ways to cope and better understand your loved one's illness.  When looking for a therapist, be patient and talk to a few professionals so you can choose the person that is right for you and your family.  It may take time until you are comfortable, but in the long-run, you will be happy to have sought help.

Taking time out

  • It's common for the person with mental illness to become the focus of family life. When this happens, other members of the family may feel ignored or resentful. Some may find it difficult to purse their own interests. If you are the caregiver, you need some time to yourself.  Schedule time away to prevent becoming frustrated or angry.  If you schedule time for yourself, it will help you to keep things in perspective and you may have more patience and compassion for coping or helping your loved one.  Only when you are physically and emotionally healthy can you help others. It is important to remember that there is hope for recovery and that with treatment, many people with mental illness return to a productive and fulfilling life.



To learn more about symptoms that are specific to a particular mental illness, please contact the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities at (404) 613-3675, or visit the Mental Health America website at www.nmha.orgMeanwhile, the following are signs that your loved one may want to speak to a medical or mental health professional:

In adults:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression
  • Feelings of extreme highs & lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems & activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

In older children & pre-adolescents:

  • Substance abuse
  • Inability to cope with problems & daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In younger children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums


  • Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), Knowledge Exchange Network, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 13-103, Rockville, MD 20857. Telephone: 800-789-2647
  • American Psychological Association, 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC, 20002. Telephone: 800-374-2721 or (202) 336-5500
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 200 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1015, Arlington, VA 22203-3457. Telephone: 800-950-6264 or (703) 524-7600
  • American Psychiatric Association, 1400 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005. Telephone: 888-357-7924
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Information Resources and Inquiries Branch, 5600 Fishers lane, Room 7C-02, Rockville, MD 20857. Telephone: (301) 443-4513



For help finding treatment, support groups, medication information, help paying for your medications, please visit your local Mental Health America affiliate.  A list of affiliates can be found by visiting www.nmha.org.  Also, you can call the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities on Mondays thru Fridays from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM at (404) 613-3675.  If you need to talk with someone after hours, please call the Georgia Crisis & Access Line at 1-800-715-4225.