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We all have mental health. It can help to think about it like physical health. We can do things to look after our physical health. But sometimes we just get ill, or something happens to us that makes our physical health worse. It’s very similar with mental health and mental illness.
We can all be affected by mental illness. The media can make us think that only certain types of people get mental illnesses. But nearly a third of us have had concerns about our mental health in the last year.
Different people are affected in different ways. Some of us are given a diagnosis. Others don’t have a diagnosis but they do have symptoms and experiences that make their lives feel difficult to cope with. Some people have both. Over the course of our lives we may have different diagnoses and symptoms.
There are lots of different ways to understand health and mental illness. Some of us feel more comfortable talking about feeling stressed or overwhelmed. You might have your own words to talk about hard times and difficult emotions.
Some of us might have experiences that feel positive - for example hearing comforting or supportive voices. It might feel frustrating or unhelpful if other people say this is a mental illness.
Some groups of people are more at risk - and there are times in our lives when we are more likely to get certain mental illnesses.
Our first experiences of depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders or psychosis are often when we are teenagers or young adults in our early twenties. This may be partly because of the changes and pressures we experience during adolescence.
New parents are more at risk of mental illness. Women who have depression, schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder before they get pregnant or have a baby are more likely to get postnatal depression or post partum psychosis. Our Family Wellness Project has more information and support.
As we get older, our experience of mental illness is more likely to be an old problem coming back, rather than something new. However, experiencing things like bereavement, unemployment or a traumatic event can increase our risk of developing a mental illness.
Older people living in care homes or those who have a stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to experience depression.
Some groups are more at risk of developing a mental illness. This might be because people in these groups are more likely to experience trauma, discrimination, isolation or high levels of stress. Some of us are in more than one of these groups.
Even if you are not in these groups, you might experience mental illness at some point in your life.
Our information on what causes mental illness will help you understand more about why some of us develop mental illness.