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By the National Alliance on Mental Illness

This year, the week of October 1st -7th was Mental Illness Awareness Week, a time to shine a light on mental illness and replace stigma with hope. Each year the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) works to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care.

One in five adults experiences a mental illness in any given year. These illnesses can contribute to the onset of more serious long-term conditions such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Approximately one-half of chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14. Unfortunately, long delays-sometimes decades-often occur between the time symptoms first appear and when people get help.

It is critical to learn to recognize early symptoms of mental illness and talk with a doctor about any concerns. Early identification and treatment can make a big difference for successful management of a condition.

Mountain Family Health Centers integrates behavioral health care into medical care to facilitate those with mental illness in getting help. Please let your provider know if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness so you can be screened, diagnosed and if needed, seen by a behavioral health specialist at the same clinic where you receive your medical care, or call 970.945.2840 or visit

NAMI is a national organization with a local Roaring Fork chapter. In addition to providing education and advocacy for mental health, NAMI also offers free local education classes and support groups. Call their HelpLine (800-950-NAMI [6264]) or visit #IntoMentalHealth #StigmaFree

For example, major depression is a mood disorder that is more serious than “feeling blue” or temporary sadness. Be alert to any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood (sadness)
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbance of appetite
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide

Bipolar disorder involves cycles of both depression and mania. It is different from normal “ups and downs” that many people experience. It involves dramatic shifts in mood, energy and ability to think clearly. Symptoms are not the same in everyone; some people may experience intense “highs,” while others primarily experience depression. Mania involves combinations of the following symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Surges of energy
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Grandiosity
  • Talkativeness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Agitation
  • Pleasure-seeking
  • Increased risk-taking behavior

Schizophrenia is a different type of mental illness but can include features of mood disorders. It affects a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to other people. Untreated, it also may include psychosis—a loss of contact with reality. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with memory
  • Difficulty in organizing thoughts
  • Lack of content in speech
  • Emotional flatness
  • Inability to start or follow through with activities
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations

Other types of mental illness include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders (including post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. Mental Illness Awareness Week is a time to learn about them all.

Anyone who experiences symptoms of mental illness should see a doctor to discuss and be checked for possibly related physical conditions. The next step might be referral to mental health specialist. Many treatment options exist. Call Mountain Family at 970-945-2840 or visit