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Mental illnesses are disorders of brain function. They have many causes and result from complex interactions between a person’s genes and their environment. Having a mental illness is not a choice or moral failing. Mental illnesses occur at similar rates around the world, in every culture and in all socio economic groups.

The statistics are staggering, 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness, that’s 20 percent of our population but yet only about 4 percent of the total health care budget is spent on our mental health.


The impact is more than in statistics and factoids, it’s in feelings and emotions. It’s in our families, with our friends and in our communities. Having a mental disorder should not be any different than experiencing a physical illness. And it doesn’t have to be; you can help make a difference.

A mental illness makes the things you do in life hard, like: work, school and socializing with other people. If you think you (or someone you know) might have a mental disorder, it is best to consult a professional as soon as possible. Early identification and effective intervention is the key to successfully treating the disorder and preventing future disability. A health care professional (doctor, mental health specialist, etc) will connect the symptoms and experiences the patient is having with recognized diagnostic criteria (DSM or ICD) to help formulate a diagnosis.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. It is most commonly used in North America.

The ICD, part of the International Classification of Diseases produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), is another commonly-used guide, more so in Europe and other parts of the world.

These guides separate mental disorders into a number of categories. We’ve listed some of the most common mental disorders below. This list is not comprehensive, but is reflective of the most common diagnoses.

Anxiety Disorders: Disturbances in brain mechanisms designed to protect you from harm
  • Specific Phobias
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
Mood Disorders: Disturbances in usual mood states
  • Major Depressive Disorder (Clinical Depression)
  • Bipolar Disorder
Psychotic Disorders: Disturbance of thinking perception and behaviour
  • Schizophrenia
  • Delusional Disorder
Personality Disorders: Maladaptive personal characteristics
  • Eccentric: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal
  • Dramatic/Emotional: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic
  • Fear-Related: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Eating Disorders: Disturbances of weight and feeding behaviour
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
Developmental Disorders: Early disturbances in usual brain development
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning Disorder
Behavioural Disorders: Persistent disturbances in expected behaviours
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Conduct Disorder
Addictions: Disorders of craving
  • Substance Use Disorders
Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
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