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Home » Mental Illness » Educate Yourself

Is It Really Mental Illness?

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 How do I know if what I am seeing is really mental illness?

Serious mental illness is not always easy to recognize. It can sometimes be hard to tell if the person is just going through a rough time or if this is the onset of mental illness. The use of drugs and/or alcohol can also make it difficult to accurately recognize or differentiate signs and symptoms. Research shows that many individuals who have a mental illness also have or will develop co-occurring problems with substance abuse. Many say that they use alcohol and drugs to cope with their illness.


Early Warning Signs

• Your relative, partner or friend is going through a phase where he/she seems withdrawn or emotionally flat.
• He/she may become "paranoid" and believe things that no one else does (delusions).
• He/she may hear or see things that no one else does (hallucinations).
• His/her speech and behavior may become disorganized or unfocused.
• His/her appearance and hygiene may change from neat and well groomed to dirty and ragged.
• He/she may seem unusually argumentative, angry, or even violent.

• He/she may talk about or even attempt to commit suicide.


If you suspect mental illness, find professional help and get information.

It takes a trained mental health professional to diagnose mental illness. To begin the process, if your friend or family member has health insurance, call the number listed in the health plan member’s information. If your friend or family member does not have health insurance, call the Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services ACCESS number 800-491-9099.


Don't let fear, stigma, shame or guilt stop you from getting help. People with mental illness can and do recover and lead rich and meaningful lives.

Early detection and treatment can make an enormous difference in terms of outcome, so acting early is crucial.  Education is the key. Mental illnesses and problems with substance abuse are treatable. Mental illness is a chemical disorder of the brain just as diabetes is a metabolic disorder of the body.


Helping Your Relative, Friend or Partner with mental health challenges


Learn about mental illness

Find information on your relative, partner or friend’s mental illness or suspected mental illness. Educating yourself is important for understanding his/her condition; it will also help reduce your own anxiety and confusion.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers a 12 week free (including materials) course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses taught by trained family members called Family to Family.  There is up to date information on the major mental illnesses, medications, practical tips, and interacting positively with your loved one and with the care provider.  Available classes on offer in California here.

For free pamphlets and articles, a lending library of books, audio and video presentations or to use one of the available computers to search for resources on the internet, contact FERC at 888-896-3372

FREE Educational Opportunities provided by the Family Education and Resource Center (FERC). 

• See all upcoming trainings at our FERC Calendar.

Educational Videos:

Lecture by Dr. Xavier Amador, author of I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help: 'How to Help Someone Who Does Not Know That They Are Ill'

• Click here to learn about the 'lived voices experience' from consumers themselves.

FREE pamphlets and other publications:

• National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Publications that can be ordered and delivered for free.


Click here for more Links to detailed information on mental illnesses


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