Q&A: Answering common questions about mental health, illness

One in five people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.   

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, Local 4 is dedicating special coverage in all newscasts Wednesday to this important topic. 

More: Metro Detroit mental health resource guide: When, where and how to find help

We also talked to Dr. Barika Butler, the chief medical officer for Detroit Wayne Medical Health Authority, to help answer some common mental health questions.

Q: What does it mean to have mental illness and what causes it?

Dr. Butler: It's just like any disease, like diabetes, high blood pressure. Mental illnesses are medical diseases that have a biological component to them. It's also important to note that mental illness doesn't always show on a person. It's not something that one wears on their sleeve. Also that it's very treatable. There are medical treatments, including medicines and therapy to help live normal lives.

They are brain diseases and there can be a genetic component. There's often someone in their family that has suffered from something similar. Our environment also plays a role in the expression of mental illness, including our housing, education, our support system and access to basic needs.

Q: What are some warning signs?

Dr. Butler: The main things we want people to know, is to look our for the key warning signs, which is talking about harming yourself or others.

If you ever see those key symptoms in someone, those are considered emergencies. See more warning signs here.

Q: How would you approach someone close to you who you think may be suffering?

Dr. Butler: It depends on your relationship with that person. If it's someone who you think you can sit down and talk to, do that. Also engage other people around you and that person to create a support system.

Q: Where can you go to find help?

Dr. Butler: Connect with your primary doctor. Engaging that initial conversation, that primary care doctor can help lead you to the type of professional that you need. Also, call your insurance company and see who is in your area that is covered. Find a county mental health guide here.

Q: What treatments are available?

Dr. Butler: Medication is one option that would target certain symptoms. Therapy is a part of the treatment plan. Anyone taking medication should be in therapy. It's a very important part of the treatment plan because we know that it changes the biochemistry and the way that the brain works, so it's very effective.

Q: Can people with mental illness recover?

Dr. Butler: Absolutely. Those who suffer from mental illness have the same goals, to live a normal life, to be around loved ones, to live a happy life. With wrap-around services, those goals are within reach with therapy and medication. 

Q: What if you can't afford treatment?

Dr. Butler: Call us at the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority and we will help you find help. There are a number of patient programs that can help, including for people who can't afford 

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