As May begins, so does Mental Health Month. Mental Health Month is designed to bring awareness to a subject that oftentimes gets overlooked. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 15-24. This shows the detrimental affect that mental illness can have on individuals and families, youth especially.

According to Mental Health America, 1 in 5 adults live with a mental health condition every year while 1 in 20 live with a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Both of these statistics express the dire need to further awareness for mental illness.

Mental illnesses can lead to drug abuse. Individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reports that there is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances” and that mental health disorder patients are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 38 percent of alcohol
  • 44 percent of cocaine
  • 40 percent of cigarettes

There’s clearly a connection between substance abuse and mental health disorders, and any number of combinations can develop, each with its own set of unique causes and symptoms, as well as its own appropriate intervention and Dual Diagnosis treatment methods.

Mental illness is a combination of genetics, environment and lifestyle. Because of this, it may be hard sometimes to decipher mental illness from hectic, everyday life. Some common warning signs to look for are:

  1. Avoiding friends and social activity
  2. Prolonged feelings of irritability or anger
  3. Abuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol
  4. Difficulty relating to others
  5. Extreme changes in sleeping patterns

While these are not the only symptoms of mental illness, they offer a solid start when trying to address the possibility of mental illness.

For more information on Mental Health Month, additional symptoms, where to get help and more, visit