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Approaches to Mental Health

In the United States and around the world mental health is a serious problem that even today we are still trying to fully understand and treat. Mental disorders and illnesses are not limited to any particular social group and can affect people of any age group as a result of a number of potential complex causes. In the United States alone, mental disorders of various kinds resulted in more than 15 percent, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, of what is known as the overall “burden of disease.” The burden of disease refers to an aggregate of premature death and disability that occurs as a result of or is associated with mental illness.

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health was signed into existence on July 3, 1946 by President Truman as part of the National Mental Health Act. This resulted in the first meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), which was held on August 15 of that same year.

As a result of funding and investments over the past half a century, the National Institute of Mental Health has been able to work on a number of fundamental fields and questions. These include clinical research and trails of new potential pharmacological and psychosocial means of helping those with mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health has also done its best to focus on testing the degree to which different treatments are effective for the diverse number of patients who receive them. Other areas of interest include strong linkages between public health research and behavioral science, prevention and intervention research and examinations of the effectiveness and functioning of mental health services.

Other services that the National Institute of Mental Health provides are the funding from grant awards to those who can benefit both public and private institutions and works closely with the collaborative efforts of other clinical researchers found at the National Institutes of Health. The National Institute of Mental Health also offers a number of means of informing the public and healthcare professionals, whether it is through organizations specifically concerned with mental health and mental illness uses, or through the dissemination of information through both education and informational activities.


Psychiatry is a field of medicine that is particularly specialized for the diagnoses and treatment of mental health issues and disorders. One of the fundamental issues surrounding the employment of psychiatric modes of diagnoses is the medical determination of what indeed constitutes mental illness. One of the reasons that this is so fundamental as in the past mental health disorders have been used as a means of stigmatizing minority groups and have been implicated in means of social control. Despite certain institutional infelicities in its early incarnations, psychiatry today is a trusted branch of medicine that for the most part looks to provide a scientific means of understanding mental health and effectively understanding and treating it.

The ways of classifying the various mental health conditions and disorders that are in use today include both a World and American standard. In the United States the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known by the acronym DSM) is published and produced by the American Psychiatric Association. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders includes five axes or classificatory zones that include psychiatric disorders, personality disorders, general medical conditions, the social functioning and impact of symptoms and finally a global assessment of functioning. The other manual that is used is a result of the efforts of the World Health Organization and is known as the International Classification of Diseases (known by the acronym ICD-10).

The usefulness of these classificatory and diagnostic manuals is that they allow those trained in its use with a consistent means of working with accepted terms and diagnostic criteria. Importantly, these manuals are based on categories that are entrenched in the ongoing research surrounding mental health illness and disorder, providing a number of clinically proven symptoms that aid in diagnoses.


Psychology, it should be noted, is quite different from psychiatry and is primarily an academic discipline that attempts to understand complex mental activities such as cognition, perception, behavior and so on. Psychiatry, on the other hand, is more concerned with the clinical dimensions of diagnosing and treating mental illness as opposed to the more abstract study of such disorders.


For those who may be suffering from any number of types of mental illness, there are a variety of counseling options availably. These include psychiatrists who attempt to help patients work through issues such as depression. There are two main forms of psychiatry: cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is generally considered to have been founded by the work of Sigmund Freud whose work helped to develop our understanding of the unconscious. His work was later influentially adapted by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, whose structuralist philosophy sought to reread Freud’s theories and apply them to contemporary theories surrounding language. In contradistinction to these forms of psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is generally considered to be a more scientific means of counseling mental health patients.

Other Options

There are a number of alternative options available to those who mental health illnesses and disorders. Milder disorders, perhaps including those related to stress may be treated by alternative medicine and treatment options. These may include such procedures as acupuncture or forms of massage therapy. However, it should be noted that although there are alternative and self-help means of dealing with mental illnesses and disorders that the foremost source for any form of treatment options or diagnoses should always be a trained physician or mental health professional. This is particularly important as mental health issues can be very serious and, at times, debilitating. It cannot be emphasized enough that decisions made regarding one’s mental health when face with the potential of serious medical, mental or other consequences should always be a result of an informed decision after consultation with trained professionals.

Once one is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, it may be important to take a few precautionary measures. First, you might want to apply for mental health disability insurance. It goes without saying that a disability can make life difficult, and insurance is an excellent way to get some much-needed assistance. Also, a good lawyer will provide you with valuable advice that pertains to you or your loved one’s particular condition and also help you with the paperwork involved with obtaining insurance.