What Causes Mental Illness

Mental illness is a complex subject, and there’s still a lot that we don’t know about it. But we do know that it can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment and lifestyle. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common causes of mental illness. We’ll also discuss how you can seek help if you or someone you love is suffering from mental illness. 

Mental Illness is Common

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.

  • More than 50% of people in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
  • 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

If you or someone you love is suffering from mental illness, it’s important to seek help.

What causes mental illness?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as

  • Early adverse life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse (for example, child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence, etc.)
  • Experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes
  • Biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Having feelings of loneliness or isolation

It is important to remember that not everyone who experiences these risk factors will go on to develop a mental illness. Mental illness is a complex condition with a multitude of causes. As our understanding of the conditions grows, we will be better prepared to provide effective treatments and support those who are affected by mental illness.

Complications from Mental Illness

Mental illness can affect people in a variety of ways. For some, it may cause mild symptoms that are easily managed. But for others, mental illness can lead to serious and long-term complications. These can include problems with employment, housing and personal relationships. In severe cases, mental illness may even lead to suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

The good news is that mental illness is treatable, and there are many resources available to help people manage their symptoms and live happy, successful lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There is no shame in seeking treatment, and the sooner you get help, the better.


There is no easily identified cause of mental illness and symptoms vary from person to person. As a result, there is no sure way to prevent mental illness. However, there are some steps that you can take to reduce your risk. These include managing stress levels, increasing your resilience and boosting your self-esteem. If you already have a mental illness, taking these steps may help you to better control your symptoms. 

  • Pay attention to warning signs. If you notice any changes in how you’re feeling, or if your symptoms start to return, be sure to contact your doctor or therapist. It’s also a good idea to work with them to develop a plan for what you should do if your symptoms do come back. This way, you’ll know exactly what steps to take and who to contact.
  • Get routine medical care. It’s important to keep up with checkups and visit your primary care provider regularly, especially if you start feeling unwell. You might have a new health problem that needs attention, or the symptoms you’re experiencing could be side effects of medication.
  • Get help when you need it. Mental health conditions can be harder to treat if you wait until symptoms get bad. Long-term maintenance treatment also may help prevent a relapse of symptoms.
  • Take good care of yourself. Sufficient sleep, healthy eating and regular physical activity are important. Try to maintain a regular schedule. Talk to your primary care provider if you have trouble sleeping or if you have questions about diet and physical activity.


While there is no single cause of mental illness there are a number of risk factors including biological, psychological and social factors. Early intervention is key to preventing mental illness from progressing and leading to more serious complications. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

Jonas Hill Hospital & Clinic, a division of Caldwell Memorial Hospital provides our community with safe, dignified and integrated care for adult patients experiencing an acute mental health need. We provide hope, treatment, and healing through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, team-based medical care, and education provided by engaging and dedicated professionals in a safe and healing environment. Contact us today for more information. A safe space to heal.