Mental health is an important component of a person’s overall health. It includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being.1 Mental illnesses are conditions, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior. These conditions may be occasional or chronic and affect a person’s ability to relate to others and function daily. The terms mental health and mental illness are not interchangeable as they are not the same thing.2 A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental and social well-being.
Why It’s Important
Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. Caring for mental health is crucial to maintain healthy relationships, positive self-image/esteem, and productivity. A person’s mental health can influence their physical health as well. Mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness. It is also important to maintain mental health through all stages of life.2
What Is Known
There are more than 200 classified types of mental illness. Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.
- More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.2
- 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.2
- 12.8% of adults have ever been diagnosed with a depressive disorder (BRFSS 2020).
- The age-adjusted death rate due to suicide in the state of Hawai’i was 12.2 per 100,000 population (Death Records 2020).
- 30.5% of middle school students in Hawaiʻi have ever felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities and 34.7% of high school students have felt that way in past 12 months (YRBS 2019).
Who Is at Risk
There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness such as:
- Early adverse life experiences including experiencing or witnessing trauma or a history of abuse (child abuse or sexual assault)
- Experiences related to other chronic medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes
- Biological factors-genetics or chemical imbalances in the brain
- Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
- Feeling lonely or socially isolated2
How To Reduce Risk
A number of mental health disorders can be treated, and prevention of mental health disorders is a growing area of research and practice. This includes paying attention to warning signs, getting routine medical care, getting help immediately, and taking good care of yourself (sufficient sleep, eating healthy, and regular physical activity).3
Page last updated July 29, 2022
1 What is mental health? MentalHealth.gov. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health. Published February 2022. Accessed July 17, 2022.
2 About mental health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm. Published June 28, 2021. Accessed July 17, 2022.
3 Mental illness. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968. Published June 8, 2019. Accessed July 17, 2022.