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Who's Affected by Mental Illness?

Find out who's affected by mental health issues, and why some groups people are more at risk than others.

What is mental health?

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.

What is 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.

Are there any other ways to think about my experiences?

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.

Who is most at risk of developing 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.

 

When am I most at risk?

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.

What groups are most at risk?

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.

  • If you are a refugee or an asylum seeker, you may be more likely to experience depression, PTSD or anxiety disorders. This may be because of trauma you have experienced, or because of problems faced while seeking asylum.

  • People in the Irish Traveller community are more at risk of suicide.

  • If you have a learning disability, you may be more likely to experience symptoms of common mental health problems.

  • If you have a physical disability you may be more at risk of mental illness. Mental illness also increases the risk of physical health problems.

  • If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender you may be more at risk of developing a mental illness. This might be partly because of experiences of discrimination, isolation and homophobia.

  • If you care for someone with a mental or physical illness, you may be more at risk of experiencing mental illness yourself.

  • If you or one of your parents experiences domestic violence or abuse, you may be more likely to experience mental illness.

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.

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