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Mental Illness Resource List

    Mental illness is not rare. It is not just something that happens to other families, in other neighborhoods. “One in four American families are affected by mental illness, and it’s time we talked about it,” observes Dr. Loraine Stern.

    There is a great range in the type and severity of mental problems. Often people with mental illness can function and make valuable contributions. President Abraham Lincoln struggled with depression, yet is esteemed as one of the great U.S. presidents. But patients and their families must cope with disturbing symptoms as they seek healing and a normal life. All of us are responsible for treating every person, without exception, with respect and compassion.

Love your neighbor as yourself.
James 2:8


What is Mental Illness?

    The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill defines mental illness as “a group of disorders causing severe disturbances in thinking, feeling, and relating” which diminish one’s ability to cope with normal demands. Common mental and emotional difficulties include anxiety disorders, substance abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, and phobias.

    Personal problems, such as grief over the death of a loved one or nervous “butterflies” before a public presentation, are normal. If symptoms interfere with an ability to be satisfied and effective at work or school and in personal relationships, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.

Peace be to you; do not fear.
Judges 6:23

At Home; In the Community

    A loving atmosphere helps sufferers to cope with the sometimes terrifying world of mental illness.   

    Marjorie Manning Vaughan, a parish Eucharistic minister, has bipolar disorder and finds her colleagues’ support invaluable. “For a mentally ill person, a church can either make or break them,” she says. “I have been loved by almost everybody that I have come in contact with for any length of time.”

    In Salt of the Earth magazine, Thomas Lambert writes that without compassion hope and faith can shatter. “Persons with mental illness wonder if God loves them because they have been taught that…God’s love for them is reflected by their faith community’s care for them.” Mentally ill people who are shunned “become victims of both the illness and of society.”

    Families can also feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry and guilty. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill cites typical stressors: financial burdens, emotional upheaval, and practical problems of everyday living with a person who is ill and whose behavior is often difficult.

    Concern from friends and neighbors, peer support groups and family counseling can help. Being there and listening, offering time out from everyday tensions can mean all the difference in tough circumstances.

Bear one another’s burdens.
Galatians 6:2

Necessity of Treatment

    Untreated mental illness limits one’s choices and chances. Sometimes people are ashamed, afraid, don’t know the signs of mental illness, or are unaware of treatment options.

    Seeking treatment can be an emotionally and financially sound decision. Studies have shown that individual and family therapy can save money by reducing the number of hospitalizations, decreasing worker absenteeism and increasing productivity.

    Available treatments include medication and/or such therapies as behavior, cognitive, supportive, and insight-oriented psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis. Whatever the treatment, a good relationship between patient and professional is often key to success.

    Care and compassion also make a difference.

Rejoice in hope.
Romans 12:12

Time to Change Attitudes

    Today, people speak openly about facets of life once taboo. Yet, through fear and misunderstanding, mental illness retains a stigma.

    Once people showing signs of mental illness were thought to be witches or possessed by evil spirits. Their often inexplicable behavior caused others to shun or isolate them.

    Myths still exist and many people are uncomfortable with those whose behavior is different. Mentally ill people are sometimes accused of character flaws or weakness for not trying hard enough to “snap out of it.” Most mentally ill persons are not violent.

    We now know that the brain’s malfunctioning biochemistry is often a major factor and that overwhelming stress, such as poverty, increases vulnerability.

    “Education is still vital,” says Michael Faenza of the National Mental Health Association. “Eradicating misunderstanding and stigma with…facts can really save lives.”

As you have done, it shall be done to you.
Obadiah 15

A look at...

    Schizophrenia is a group of disorders marked by delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thinking.

    Taken from the Greek meaning “splitting of the mind,” connections between what’s going on within the person and what’s happening in the outside world seem to split apart. For instance, someone might laugh while describing a death in the family.

    Schizophrenia usually first shows up in the teens, 20s or early 30s. Some, though not all, people speak, dress and behave in bizarre ways.

    Dr. Frederick Frese, director of psychology at Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital in Ohio, has a special perspective: “I am a person with schizophrenia. I am not currently psychotic, but I have been in the state of psychosis often enough to be somewhat familiar with the trips there and back. This disorder disrupts brain chemistry and fools you into believing that your thoughts are rational when other people can usually tell that they’re not.”

A look at...
Bipolar Disorder

    “Manic-depression, a strongly genetic disease, pitches patients from depressed to hyperactive and euphoric, or intensely irritable,” says Kay Redfield Jamison, psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    Daryl Jacobson got the psychiatric help he needed at the urging of his wife. Daryl went from being easygoing to having hostile outbursts. He paced around at home and “talked a mile a minute.”

    Mania can be deceiving. A person may feel less need for sleep, feel productive and get lots of ideas. But the high doesn’t last. A closer look at the ideas usually shows them to be unrealistic and grandiose.

A look at...
Major Clinical Depression

    Feeling “blue” or “down” occasionally is not a major clinical depression. Severe depression won’t lift with advice to cheer up. Significant relief is often possible in a relatively short time with medication, psychotherapy or both.

    Women are more likely than men to suffer major depression, according to Professor Sonia Austrian of Cornell University Medical School. While evidence is not conclusive, cultural factors seem more relevant than biology.

    It’s said that men find it hard to ask for help. For anyone who believes that it’s admirable to be stoic, to never cry, to be self-sufficient and independent, realizing that it is appropriate to get help is a real eye-opener.

    Symptoms of major depression include:
        • persistent sad or “empty” mood 
        • feeling helpless, worthless, pessimistic or guilty 
        • substance abuse 
        • fatigue or loss of interest in common activities, including sex 
        • disturbances in eating and sleeping 
        • irritability, crying, anxiety and panic attacks 
        • difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions 
        • thoughts, plans or attempts at suicide 
        • persistent physical symptoms or pains that won’t respond to treatment.

Thoughts on Giving Help

    Persons with mental illness need what everyone needs — loving friends, a caring community, rewarding work. They also need to have their illness acknowledged and addressed.

    A person with schizophrenia writes: “My family and relatives have offered financial and emotional support…I have a wide circle of nurturing friends in church, E.A. (Emotions Anonymous), the civic theater, work, and college. This acceptance gives me courage and fulfills my life in a way no fantasy can. When my delusions threaten to turn to paranoia, I remember my friends and dare to trust, to reach out.”

    During active periods of illness, some people need psychiatric hospitalization with counseling and medication monitoring. But for most patients long-term hospitalization is a thing of the past. In general, persons with mental illness are fortunate if understanding loved ones keep daily routines as normal as possible.

    Persons with mental illness are more isolated than others realize. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members can help by visiting and including those with mental illness and their families in events and activities.

    Agencies, such as COMPEER, match those with mental illness and trained volunteers. The two may go to movies, restaurants, etc. A therapist is available for guidance.

    As one expert writes: “Concerned persons who offer human compassion and a sanctuary from a confusing world must be a cornerstone of any overall treatment plan.”

Some Brief Definitions

Alzheimer’s Disease: A degenerative disorder; one of the most prominent types of dementia.

Anxiety: An emotional state having no recognizable source marked by fear and apprehension.

Autism: Severe psychiatric disorder marked by difficulties in communications and relationships.

Delusions: Fixed false beliefs that can’t be changed by rational arguments.

Dementia: Disorder with memory loss, deterioration in personal care, impaired reasoning.

Depression: Emotional disturbance varying from “the blues” to paralyzing hopelessness.

Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, tasting, touching or smelling something not real.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Persistent unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors.

Panic Disorder: Attacks with symptoms such as shortness of breath, trembling, terror.

Phobia: Pathologically strong, inappropriate fear of an ordinary event or thing.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): After effects, i.e., flashbacks and nightmares, sometimes long after someone has had a severe shock.

Psychosis: Severe mental disorder with loss of contact with reality; hallucinations, delusions.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): “Winter depression” linked to seasonal decrease in daylight.


The Alzheimer’s Association
Seeks to end the myth that “senile behaviors are part of aging.” Promotes research. Educational programs for the public, media and professionals. Represents people with Alzheimer’s at government and social services agencies. Support systems for families of those with Alzheimer’s. Local chapters. Educational forums. Speakers’ bureau. Reference library. Free quarterly Alzheimer’s Association Newsletter. Brochures. Catalog. Fact Sheets. Video kits. Patient care publications. Annual meeting and public policy forum convention.
919 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1000
Chicago, IL 60611
312-335-8700 / 800-272-3900 / TDD: 312-335-8882
fax: 312-335-1110
e-mail:  / Web site:

American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF)
Alzheimer’s Family Relief Program provides “direct financial assistance to Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. …for…short-term nursing care, home health care, respite care, adult day care, medications, medical or personal hygiene supplies, transportation.” Also, educational programs and publications. Community outreach.
15825 Shady Grove Road, Suite 140
Rockville, MD 20850
301-948-3244 / 800-437-2423 / fax: 301-258-9454
e-mail:  / Web site:

Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)
Facilitates research, progress in treatment, public and professional education. Fosters local self-help groups. Operates information clearing house. Works to remove stigma of anxiety disorders. Lay and professional memberships. Quarterly members’ newsleer. National directory, audiotapes, conference programs, booklets, pamphlets, annual national conference.
11900 Parklawn Drive, Suite 100
Rockville, MA 20852–2624
301-231-9350 / fax: 301-231-7392
e-mail:  / Web site:

Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association (DRADA)
Encourages and facilitates formation of local support groups. Provides support services including referrals, educational programs, networking and consultation, and training for support group leaders. Conducts research and educational programs. Speakers bureau. Lay and professional memberships. Videos. Manual for support groups. Quarterly newsletter. Books.
Johns Hopkins Hospital Meyer 3-181
600 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21287–7381
410-955-4647 / 202-955-5800 / fax: 410-614-3241
e-mail:  / Web site:

The Eldercare Locator Database — National Aging Information Center
Community assistance for senior citizens. Nationwide. Connects to state and local information “that enables older persons to find help to remain independent in their own homes. …Caregivers…get a well-deserved break.”
800-677-1116 (Monday-Friday, 9a.m.—11 p.m. Eastern Time)

Emotions Anonymous
“People share their experience, strength, and hope to help each other recover from emotional illness.” Adapts 12 steps of AA to emotional problems. Literature. Information. Books. Quarterly, The New Message. Annual Convention.
Post Office Box 4245
St. Paul, MN 55104–0245
651-547-9712 / fax: 612-647-1593
e-mail: Web site:

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
A “family and consumer, self-help, support, education, and advocacy organization” to improve “the lives of people with severe mental illnesses.” Lay and professional memberships. English and Spanish material. NAMI Advocate 6/year. Brochures. Books. Videos. Media Watch Kit. Family-to-Family Education Program and Family-to-Family Support Groups in U.S. and Canada. Commiee on Public Policy and Communications. NAMI Legal Alliance.
200 North Glebe Road, Suite 1015
Arlington, VA 22203-3754
703-524-7600 / helpline: 800-9500-NAMI (6264)
fax: 703-524-9094 / fax to order books only: 301-843-0159
Web site:

National Depressive & Manic-Depressive Association (NDMDA)
Educates people about depressive and manic-depressive illness as treatable medical diseases. Fosters self-help for patients and families. Works to eliminate discrimination, stigma; and improve access to care. Supports research. Lay and professional membership. Multinational and regional groups. English/Spanish material. Downloadable video, publications. Support groups. Quarterly newsleer, national and regional meetings.
730 N. Franklin, Suite 501
Chicago, IL 60610-3526
312-642-0049 / 800-826-3632
fax: 312-642-7243
Web site:

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Pamphlets, brochures and other publications on more general mental health topics and on various medications. English and Spanish. Also “Anxiety Disorders Education Program” and “Depression Education Program” list various disorder-specific pamphlets, brochures and other publications from various organizations; books; videotapes.
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Web site:  
On their Web site, “For the Public” overview pages give directory and links. “Science on our Minds” fact sheets on “advances in the treatment of mental illnesses.” Publications can be ordered from NIMH at
NIMH Public Inquiries
6001 Executive Boulevard
Room 8184 MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892–9663
fax 301-443-4279

Sidran Foundation and Press
Education, advocacy, and research to help people traumatized by family violence, crime, disasters, war, or other overwhelming experience. The Sidran Press. The Sidran Bookshelf. Resource Specialist. PsychTrauma InfoBase lists therapists, organizations, conferences, training, treatment facilities, print and electronic media on trauma. Free resources and referrals to English-speaking callers.
2328 W. Joppa Road, Suite 15
Lutherville, MD 21093
Web site:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health Administration on Aging
The National Institute on Aging is the leading federal agency for research into diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center 800-438-4380 is a clearinghouse for public information about Alzheimer’s. Free publications.
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
202-619-0724 / TDD 202-401-7575
fax: 202-260-1012
contact:  / Web site:

— or

1. Contact your doctor, mental health clinic or hospital.
2. Talk with your pastor, minister or rabbi for referral to a mental health professional or clinic.
3. Contact your diocesan Catholic Charities’ mental health services department or family counseling and guidance center.

About The Christophers

The Christophers uses the media to spread the beliefs that: There’s nobody like you and You can make a difference. Based on the concept of service to God and all humanity, the non-profit organization founded in 1945 encourages people from all walks of life to show personal responsibility and individual initiative in raising standards of public life.

Inclusion of an organization, publication or listing does not indicate endorsement by The Christophers. Information is subject to change. For additional help, check with your local library or other community resources.

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