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‘Mental’ vs. ‘Physical’ Illness

Mental healthOver 21 million Americans had diabetes in 2012 (American Diabetes Association). In addition to its impact on the individual, the disease was responsible for $69 billion in economic costs due to lost productivity. In light of these facts, diabetes is rightly acknowledged to be a major public health issue, and prevention and treatment are public priorities.

At the same time, over 43 million Americans are estimated to experience a mental illness in a given year. The costs associated with these disorders are greater than those of diabetes, respiratory disorders and cancer combined (World Economic Forum). Neuropsychiatric disorders, including mental illness, are the leading cause of disability in the United States (NIMH). And mental illness can be lethal: among adults in the United States, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death, surpassing other causes including diabetes, stroke and homicide.

Due in part to the stigma that continues to be associated with mental illness, conversations around its personal and societal impacts are less frequent and less public than those about physical illnesses. This distinction has profound effects. While those affected by physical illness are likely to seek treatment, individuals with a mental illness may hesitate to even acknowledge a problem exists. Due to the “mental” vs. “physical” distinction, they may feel shame for being ill, fail to receive support and understanding from loved ones, or may be unaware that effective treatments are available.

Mental Health Awareness month is a time to change the conversation. Rather than being separate and distinct, mental and physical health are intertwined: physical illness impacts mental well-being, and mental disorders have physical symptoms and consequences. And just like physical ailments, mental illness is treatable.

Since its founding, The Family Institute has been committed to promoting healthy family functioning and individual mental health and wellness through prevention and effective treatment. For example, in the case of individual mental health, our Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) team has been helping people access empirically-validated treatments for anxiety and depressive disorders for over a decade. Such treatments have been shown to provide significant relief or eliminate symptoms of depressive and anxiety disorders, which together account for about 44% of mental illnesses.

Raising awareness about effective treatments that restore mental wellness is one way to begin reducing the disparity in attitudes towards “mental” and “physical” ailments. The impact of mental illness is on par with that of physical illness, but in many cases, so is our ability to treat it.

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program at The Family Institute specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and depressive disorders. Using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), clinicians work collaboratively with their clients to identify personalized, time-limited therapy goals and strategies, which are then continually monitored and evaluated throughout treatment. If you think that you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, OCD or depression, or if you would like additional information, please email

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.



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