What is A Mental Illness?

First, What Is a Mental Illness?


Mental illnesses are brain illnesses that are characterized by changes in a persons’ thinking, mood, or behavior, and that are accompanied by significant distress, or impairment in functioning (Healthy People, 2010). While spiritual beliefs in the life of a person with a mental illness can help to provide hope and strength, they do not automatically exempt a person from becoming ill. No one regardless of their race or economic status is exempt from the impact of having an untreated mental illness.

Currently as identified in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) (a book that is used by mental health professionals to identify and classify symptoms) there are currently over 15 broad categories of mental illness.


While the exact causes of many mental disorders are still unknown, according to published reports, it is likely that biological, psychological, and social/cultural factors all work together to shape the development of many diseases, to include mental illnesses (Surgeon Generals’ Report, 1999). Some of the major theories currently associated with the causes of mental illnesses include genetics, changes in brain chemicals, infections, psychological issues, the environment, life events, personality, and developmental factors.


Why do people become ill?

From a spiritual perspective, we know that man consists of a spirit, soul, and body. Any change or problem in any one of these three areas can influence the other parts, in either a positive or a negative way.


Likewise, the brain an organ just like the liver or heart, can negatively influence or be influenced by various factors that can cause impairments in the life of an individual. Traumatic brain injuries or fluctuations in brain chemicals can trigger changes in the personality or the soulish area of an individual to such an extent, that it can appear to look as if the person is undergoing a spiritual attack. While there may be some illnesses that are demonically induced those are not the kind that we are addressing in this booklet. Mental illnesses are brain illnesses.


Some disorders last only for a while and may have limited impact on a persons’ life. While others may be more expansive and severe. “Serious mental illness is a term used in federal regulations that define some 5.4 percent of the U.S. adult population with a mental disorder that interferes with at least one area of social functioning. About half of these people (2.6 percent of adults) experience a severe and persistent mental illness” https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.25.3.737

Severe and persistent mental illnesses are illnesses that are long-lasting, persistent or chronic in nature. Severe mental illnesses like Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorders can impact all aspects of a persons’ life to include their ability to work, go to school, and or to even have a family. Symptoms of severe and persistent mental illnesses, like those of diabetes and other chronic diseases, fluctuate in intensity, and even with the use of medications individuals may never be totally free of symptoms.