address of this article is
Clicking underlined links here will open a
new window. Other links will open an informational popup,
so please turn off your
browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site.
Follow underlined links after
finishing this article to avoid getting lost.
This recent research finding seems to support
several main premises in this
nonprofit Web site.
From my 36 years' practice as a family therapist, this brief YouTube video
offers perspective on "mental illness."
I offer perspective on this report at the end.
- Peter Gerlach, MSW
- Most mental illness hits early in life, with half of all cases
starting by age 14, a survey of nearly 10,000 U.S. adults found.
Many cases begin with mild, easy-to-dismiss symptoms such as low-level
anxiousness or persistent shyness, but left untreated, they can quickly
escalate into severe
disabling phobias or clinical anxiety,
said Ronald Kessler, a Harvard Medical School researcher involved in the
That so many cases begin in people so young -
three-fourths start by age
24 - “is just staggering,” and underscores the need for better efforts at
early detection and treatment, Kessler said.
“These disorders have really become the chronic disorders of young
people in America,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National
Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research.
The findings, published in the June issue of
Archives of General
Psychiatry, were based on face-to-face interviews conducted with people
ages 18 and older in 2001 through 2003.
The new figures also show that the prevalence of mental illness
nationwide has stabilized for the first time since the end of World War
II, Kessler said.
About 46 percent of people surveyed said they had experienced a mental
illness at some point in their lives, and about 26 percent said they had
within the previous year - rates similar to those reported in a 1994
version of the survey. Before the earlier survey, rates had steadily
increased since the mid-1940s, Kessler said.
The previous increase was probably at least partly due to better
detection and awareness, Kessler said.
The overall prevalence rate is probably an underestimate because the
study included only English-speaking adults and excluded rarer illnesses
such as schizophrenia and autism.
Most ailments were mild. Only about one-fifth of those who reported any
mental disorder within the past year had a serious illness, meaning
their daily activities were severely affected.
This article doesn't
define "mental illness," so its conclusions are open to
Apparently the findings
are based on self-reports, which are likely to be
distorted - probably in favor of underreporting
the frequency and personal and family impacts of psychological
The report sidesteps the
nature-nurture controversy over the possible causes of
"mental illness." It describes the scope
of the problem (national mental illness), but stops short of
diagnosing what causes it or proposing how to lower it.
The researchers vaguely promote "early detection and
treatment," rather than
The language of the report reinforces
the outdated psychoanalytic "medical model" of mental
illness, which implies that psychological disturbances are a
"sickness" rather than a psychological condition
and a major symptom of
family dysfunction. Most people resist feeling "I'm
sick" or "I
have a disease," which inhibits accurate
self-awareness, discovery, and
This research summary indirectly supports
several Break-the-Cycle premises:
"mental illness" is a symptom of
from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma).
Wounds is a more accurate and less negative term than
these wounds are unintentionally
to typical kids in their first 5-6 years by adult abandonment,
neglect, and abuse (trauma)
If a child's
family dysfunction isn't corrected, their mix of wounds and
unawareness causes a wide range of personal and social
in their adolescence and adulthood.
psychological problems meritfamily therapy, vs.
medication and individual treatment. and...
a high percentage of
typical mental health and media professionals are unaware of or
discount these premises, causing ineffective or harmful
Opinion: our global "mental illness" problem
is (a) public acceptance of irresponsible child
conception and ineffective parenting; + (b) public and
law-makers' ignorance of the pervasive,
lethal [wounds +
and how to stop it.
Lesson 1 in this nonprofit
Web site and its related guidebook focus on (a)
assessing "mental illness" (psychological wounds), (b) intentionally
reducing it over time, and (c)
protecting vulnerable young kids from it.
For three practical
options you can tailor to break the expending, lethal [wounds + unawareness]
cycle in your family, region, and nation, see