The term "mental illness" is used to describe a variety of psychiatric disabilities, including depression, schizophrenia, manic depression, and panic/anxiety disorders, to name a few. Like most illnesses, mental illnesses have intertwined biological, psychological and environmental roots. Mental illnesses can affect Anyone. Persons at all levels of functioning and intelligence may experience mental illnesses. They affect the poor and the rich, the young and the old, people from every race, every background. They strike our sons, our daughters, our mothers, our fathers. Mental illnesses are as prevalent as other medical illnesses, and constitute a major public health problem. Yet, these are the illnesses no one wants to talk about. At some point in life, most of us experience periods of stress which affect us mentally and emotionally.
Widespread misconceptions about mental illnesses overlook one important reality: as many as 8 in 10 people suffering from mental illnesses can effectively return to normal, productive lives if they receive appropriate treatment. Managing and/or recovering from mental illnesses is a lifelong process, often requiring unique combinations and dosages of medications and/or non-medical supports. Each person experiences an illness in unique ways, and treatment needs are different for each person. Some people are able to manage their symptoms with only minimal intervention by trained professionals, while others need periodic intensive treatment in inpatient settings. Most people with psychiatric disabilities can, with treatment and a good support system, enjoy active and fulfilling lives in the community.
Whether the mental illness is caused by injury, disease, biological changes in the brain, abuse, or a combination of factors, help is available in the community. For instance:
- coordination of services (case management)
- crisis intervention
- support in the home
- job training and on-the-job support
- residential services and housing
When a person needs in-patient services for a few days or months, there are several community hospitals with specialized treatment units. The state also operates hospitals in Augusta (Riverview Psychiatric Center ) and in Bangor (Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center).
More than half the people in psychiatric emergency services and mental health institutions have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse. Maine is a national leader in recognizing trauma and in developing systemic responses to the needs of abuse survivors, both adults and children.