The term mental illness encompasses a range of mental health disorders that, according to the National Institute of Health in 2017, affects over 46 million American adults, almost 20% of the population. A survey in 2010 estimated that 49.5% of adolescents had some form of mental illness. Despite growing awareness about the state of mental illness, a 2017 study by Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit for mental health advocacy and support, found that 56% of adults with mental illness did not receive treatment and 20% reported an unmet need.
One of the reasons for under-treatment is the difficulty and complexity of diagnosing a mental illness. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the manual that health professionals use to diagnose mental illness, lists over 300 disorders, most of which fall into seven main categories: mood, anxiety, personality, psychotic, eating, trauma-related, and substance abuse. Doctors could take months or years to determine the correct diagnosis because symptoms overlap and few medical tests exist to definitively identify a specific mental illness.
Even when a diagnosis is set, treating mental illness is a battle. Not only can treatments be expensive, they are also complex, since the mental illnesses they hope to assuage or eliminate involve overlapping symptoms and affect physical as well as mental health. Researchers have struggled to find effective medications. As director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health Thomas Insel put it, “We just don’t know enough. Research and development in this area has been almost entirely dependent on the serendipitous discoveries of medications.” Advocacy organizations work to increase funding for these studies. Psychiatrists believe that a combination of psychotherapy and the right medication best treats mental illness.
Proper treatment of a mental illness is critical. Untreated mental disorders leave patients at risk for worsening conditions, chronic physical problems, decreased quality of life overall, substance abuse, and even suicide. Early psychological autopsies gauged that 90% of suicides had underlying mental health problems. Below are a variety of apps, online resources, advocacy groups, and hotlines to help patients suffering with mental illnesses.
- 7 Cups – Anonymous bridging technology connects you with a network of online emotional support from trained Active Listeners. 7 Cups is devoted to providing positive and supportive conversations for anyone who needs a caring, listening ear.
- Happify – The research-based activities and games in this app help to improve overall well-being – to “happify” someone and empower them to control their emotional health.
- Moodpath – Designed in collaboration with scientists and researchers, Moodpath is an app for depression. It asks questions about your thoughts and feelings daily and provides over 150 encouraging exercises and videos.
- nOCD – nOCD’s collection of self-help tools enables you to identify your OCD symptoms and tendencies and treat them with Exposure Response Prevention Therapy.
- Pacifica – Combat anxiety, depression, and stress with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy- and Mindfulness-based treatments by practicing relaxation, tracking mood and health, recording goals and thoughts, and joining a peer support community in Pacifica.
- Rise Up + Recover – For patients recovering from eating disorders, Rise Up + Recover provides a platform to log meals, track emotions, stick to their recovery plans, and connect to eating disorder specialists.
- Superbetter – In Superbetter, you make your mental health battle a game with allies, quests, power ups, bad guys, and future boosts that push you toward your Epic Win – the real-life goal you set. The positive mindset and psychological strengths players bring when playing games inspires the app’s Living Gamefully method.
- Talkspace – A nationwide network of licensed therapists provides a safe space for people suffering with mental illness to connect to therapy through text messaging. Plans start at $49 per week.
- Find a Therapist – Type in your city, your zip code, or a name to find therapists in your area.
- Half of Us – The “Dealing With” and “Get the Facts” pages on this site have short articles, video testimonies, and resources to feel better from and find support for mental illness.
- Mental Health Resource Center – The resource center from the Jed Foundation educates youth about common mental health issues and provides support for navigating them.
- Mental Health Screening Tools – Quickly and easily evaluate whether, based on your symptoms, you are suffering from a mental illness. Discuss the results with your healthcare provide.
- Mental Health: What to Look For – Learn the symptoms of the mental illness types, including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and mood disorders.
- Mind Disorders – Extensive encyclopedic entries and medical articles cover over 150 mental disorders.
- OK2TALK – One of the hardest parts of living with mental illness is feeling like you’re alone in the battle. This community, created for young adults by the National Alliance of Mental Illness, contains stories, photos, videos, and more from others struggling with the same disorders.
- Psychology Help Center – This center of the American Psychological Association has dozens of resources on psychological issues and physical and emotional well-being.
- Active Minds – Alison Malmon founded Active Minds in 2003 after her brother, who suffered from depression, ended his life. The organization works to spread awareness about and help students suffering from depression on college campuses.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – AFSP funds research for suicide prevention and interference, advocates for mental health awareness in the culture, and reaching out to people affected by suicide.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America – ADAA is an international, multidisciplinary organization of the world’s leading experts on anxiety and depression. They educate the public on mental illness through free online resources, their research journal, and annual conferences.
- Big White Wall – Based in the United Kingdom in 2017, Big White Wall has an online support network monitored by trained clinicians 24/7 and live therapy offered from 7am to 11pm every day.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance – Depression and bipolar disorder affects more than 21 million Americans. The Support Alliance has extensive peer-based support, services, and resources, including 24/7 online chats and local support groups, to strengthen patients dealing with these two prevalent conditions.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI has grown from its grassroots start in 1979 to become a leading voice for mental illness. Over 500 local affiliates raise awareness about mental illness in their communities through education programs, public policy, and public awareness events like Mental Illness Awareness Week.
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders – Begun in the 1970s when support for and information on eating disorders was sparse, today ANAD is a community of support groups across America.
- Project Semicolon – On their website the organization explains, “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life.” Project Semicolon is an anti-suicide initiative dedicated to educating and equipping the community.
- Crisis Text Line – In less than five minutes, you can connect to a Crisis Counselor by texting 741741.
- IMAlive – IMAlive, the first 100% virtual crisis center, uses instant messaging to help people who are in crisis but hesitant to call a hotline.
- National Eating Disorder Association Hotline – The NEDA Hotline is available from 9 to 9 on Mondays through Thursdays and 9 to 5 on Fridays. Call the hotline, use Click-to-Chat, or text.
- SAMHSA National Helpline – SAMHSA offers a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year national helpline in English and Spanish for individuals struggling with mental disorders or substance abuse.
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Contact 1-800-273-8255 for confidential support 24/7 for suicidal and emotional crises.
- The Trevor Project – The Trevor Project’s hotline, instant messaging, and texting options for suicide prevention are available all day and year round.