Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that disrupt a person’s mood, thoughts, and behavior. Examples of mental health conditions include anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.
While many people experience mental health issues from time to time, it may not always be apparent when a short-term mental health issue is developing into a long-term mental illness. With the exception of trauma or brain injury, the signs and symptoms of mental illness don’t tend to appear abruptly. Rather, a mental illness begins to develop when disruptive moods, thoughts, and behaviors continue to linger or “brew.”
Although each mental health condition is different, and each has its own set of symptoms, there are common early signs of mental illness to be aware of. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), these are the most common early signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feeling excessively sad or low
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
- Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
- Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
- Thinking about suicide
- Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
- An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
Where To Get Help
Knowing the early signs of mental illness is a great first step in taking charge of your mental health. If you have concerns about your mental health, please consider scheduling an appointment with a mental health provider for an assessment.
If you are unsure about where to begin, the following organizations can help you figure out what you need to begin your journey toward mental wellness.
341 East 12th Ave, Eugene OR 97401
Every day, 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Call or go to the White Bird office for crisis intervention, counseling services, and referrals. Accepts OHP/Trillium, sliding scale, individuals who are homeless and uninsured do not have to pay. Hours by appointment only.
Looking Glass Counseling Programs
260 East 11th Ave, Eugene OR 97401
Monday – Thursday, 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Friday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Call to speak with a referral coordinator and schedule an appointment. Looking Glass provides outpatient mental health services for children, youth, and adults Oregon Health Plan and most private insurance are accepted. Grant funding is available for clients who qualify.
ShelterCare Behavioral Health Services
499 West 4th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401
Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM
ShelterCare’s Behavioral Health Services provide mental health support to individuals diagnosed with a mental health condition, and those who may be coping with trauma or stress related to homelessness. ShelterCare’s attentive, caring team members provide one-on-one support based on the needs of each individual.
When you call or visit ShelterCare’s office, you will be greeted by one of our friendly receptionists who can help answer questions, provide you with information about applying for ShelterCare’s Behavioral Health Services, and connect you to resources in the community.
These are the steps to receiving ShelterCare’s Behavorial Health Services:
- Application – Apply to ShelterCare’s Behavorial Health Program to see if you qualify for services.
Intake – ShelterCare will notify you of your qualification status for Behavioral Health Services.
- Assessments/Treatment Plan – If you are accepted, ShelterCare will connect you with a Behavorial Health specialist, who will provide you with an assessment and treatment plan. A limited number of assessments are offered weekly and, in special circumstances, expedited assessment may be available.
- Ongoing Services – You will continue to meet with your Behavioral Health Specialist on a regular bass, and will have the opportunity to utilize other services including skills training, socialization groups, case management, supported employment, and healthcare coordination.
After being connected to a mental health professional, the next step is working with that person to get an accurate diagnoses and individualized treatment plan.
At ShelterCare, for example, a mental health professional will help you determine diagnoses during your first appointment. They do this by learning about your symptoms, history, and any other information you’d like to provide. From there, they will work with you on a treatment plan that’s right for you, which may include talk therapy, nutrition info, suggestions of how to alleviate your symptoms, or even medication.
Take Notes: A great way to remember information about a mental health condition is to write it down. When your provider talks about your condition, take notes so you can look it up later. As the internet can sometimes be misleading, be sure to ask your provider if there are any good books or websites with more accurate information about your condition. When reading about your condition, you may find symptoms that don’t apply to you. As no mental health condition is the same, this is perfectly normal.
Research Your Condition: When doing research, remember to focus on your own treatment and symptoms, and less on the internet’s opinions and comments about a condition. There’s lots of information out there that may be discouraging to read, but it’s important to remember that you are your own person, and no one’s condition is the same. If you have any questions or concerns about your condition, never hesitate to ask your mental health provider. They will know better than anyone what is best for your mental health. Good research, paired with a knowledgeable mental health professional, can help you learn more about your condition, and reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Find a Support Group: If you haven’t already, start looking for a support group that is right for you. Being diagnosed with a mental health condition can be puzzling at first, which is why it’s important to reach out to others who understand what you’re going through. NAMI’s classes and discussion groups can provide encouragement and advice from people who are living with mental illnesses. For more information about NAMI’s support groups, call NAMI of Lane County at (541) 343-7688.
Also, consider checking out NAMI’s info graphic on “How to Take Charge of Your Mental Health.”