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The mission of NAMI Orange County is to support persons with mental illness, their families and their friends, to improve education about severe brain disorders, to fight stigma, and to advocate for a continuum of high quality mental health care services. We support increased funding for research, adequate health care, housing, rehabilitation and jobs for people with serious psychiatric illnesses.


 Severe mental illnesses are brain disorders that affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, sometimes making it difficult to function.  Similar to Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, they are biologically-based medical conditions. Major mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic depression), severe depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumaticstress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder. 

As severe medical conditions, mental illnesses are not failures of character, aptitude or upbringing.  

Mental disorders are widespread. In any given year, one out of every four adults, or 57.7 million Americans, will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness (1). Approximately 46 percent of the population will meet the criteria for a mental illness at some point in their lifetime (2). One out of every five families already does or will have a relative with a serious brain disorder (3). Even though many people suffer, the greatest burden is more concentrated with 1 out of 17 people--or 6 percent--affected by a serious mental disorder (1).

Mental illnesses are the number one cause of disability in the United States and Canada.  

Yet, mental disorders are treatable conditions. Most individuals--a full 70 to 90 percent—can greatly improve their functioning with a combination of medicine and psychosocial treatments(4).

Cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, dialectical behavioral, and family-focused therapies represent some of the more common psychotherapies used in treating mental illness.  In addition, family support, community involvement, and participation in peer-centered activities often reduce the impact of mental illness.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, treatment of mental illness costs $55 billion a year. Comparatively, the total cost of all cancer treatment is $80 billion annually.   

Stigma poses a threat to the treatment of and recovery from mental illness.  In any given year, less than a third of those that meet the criteria for diagnosis actually get treated.   People often delay or avoid seeking treatment for fear of stigmatization.  Simply hearing the story of someone's experience with mental illness has been shown to increase acceptance. 

NAMI Orange County
Post Office Box 4201
Chapel Hill, NC 27515-4201
(919) 929-7822

1. NIMH, . (2009). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD. Web site:
2. Ronald C. Kessler; Patricia Berglund; Olga Demler; Robert Jin; Kathleen R. Merikangas; Ellen E. Walters Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(6):593-602.
3. NAMI Illinois, . (2010). Facing the Facts. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from NAMI Illinois, Springfield, Illinois. Web site:
4. NAMI, . (1996-2010). What Is Mental Illness: Mental Illness Facts. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from National Alliance on Mental Illness, Arlington, VA. Web site:


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