Mental Health Awareness

Mental illness is a reality that affects the lives of millions of people in America. It is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood. These conditions deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14 and three-quarters by the age of 24. It is important to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.

What are some conditions that would be considered a mental illness?

Anxiety Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Dissociate Disorders, Eating Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Psychosis, Schizoaffective Disorder, and Schizophrenia

What are some medications used in the treatment of mental illness?

Broken down into two categories: first generation (typical) antipsychotics and second generation (atypical) antipsychotics. These medications reduce or eliminate symptoms of psychosis (delusions and hallucinations) by affecting the brain chemical called dopamine. All antipsychotics are important in the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Second-generation antipsychotics can also be used to treat acute mania, bipolar disorder, and treatment-resistant depression. When comparing typical antipsychotics to atypical antipsychotics, one group is not necessarily better than the other, but they do differ in their side effects.


Improve symptoms of depression by adjusting levels of the brain chemicals associated with emotion, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Antidepressants consist of Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and bupropion. Some antidepressants may be useful for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but they may require higher doses. Symptoms of depression that are part of a bipolar disorder need more careful assessment because antidepressants may worsen the risk of mania and provide little relief from depressive symptoms. Before starting any kind of antidepressant therapy, contact your doctor to see which is best for you.

Anti-Anxiety Medications:

Work to reduce the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety. They can treat social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. These medicines are quick acting and work short-term, but people prone to substance abuse may become dependent on them. Dosage increases over time may be necessary because the body may become used to these medications, resulting in an increased the dose needed for therapeutic effect. Sudden discontinuation of these drugs may lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.


Commonly used in bipolar disorder in order to treat mood swings. They can prevent manic or hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes, but have side effects that need to be closely monitored.

Frequently asked questions about mental illness:

Can mental illness run in the family?

Yes. Genetics play a role in the development of a mental health disorder. First, a person’s genes may make that person more likely to experience mental health symptoms like depression or anxiety or to develop a personality disorder if a parent, sibling, or grandparent also struggled with the disorder. Second, being raised in a family in which one or more members is living with an untreated mental health disorder may cause someone to learn those behaviors and be less likely to recognize the need for treatment later.

Can people with mental illness recover?

Early identification and treatment are of vital importance when dealing with mental illness. Based on the nature of the illness, there are a range of effective treatments available. For any type of treatment, it is essential that the person affected is proactive and fully engaged in their own recovery process. Many people with mental illnesses who are diagnosed and treated respond well, although some might experience a return of symptoms. With careful monitoring and management of the disorder, it is still quite possible to live a fulfilled and productive life.

Will I become addicted to the medication?

Most medications for severe brain disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar illness do not pose a risk of addiction. These medications alleviate symptoms and improve your health, but there is no craving and the outcome of use is positive. Some prescription medications to relieve anxiety and improve sleep, for example, lorazepam (Ativan®), alprazolam (Xanax®), clonazepam (Klonopin®) and diazepam (Valium®) can pose a risk of addiction in persons prone to addictions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the risk of addiction with your specific medications.

What are the long-term effects of taking medication for mental illness?

Medications for mental illness are generally safe and effective when used as prescribed. As with any medication, however, side effects may occur. Every medication has some risk of long-term adverse effects. For example, clozapine (Clozaril®) poses a risk of lowering immune system function, and valproate (Depakene®, Depakote®) has a risk of causing liver injury and lithium has a risk of decreasing kidney function. Regular visits to your doctor and blood tests are often necessary to screen for and prevent these adverse effects.

What are common signs and symptoms of mental illness?

Some common signs and symptoms of mental health include: depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or actions, homicidal thoughts, anger/irritability, posing a threat to others, withdrawal, isolation, feeling of helplessness or despair, inability to cope with grief or loss, aggressive behavior, tearfulness or crying spells, confusion, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping.

Once I’ve identified a mental illness, who do I contact for help?

If you think you or a loved one is living with a mental illness, you should contact your primary care physician as soon as possible for an official diagnosis.

Written by:
Kalu Kalu
PharmD Candidate 2021
Temple University School of Pharmacy