Two Harvard trained psychiatrists, Dr. Carlin Barnes and Dr. Marketa Wills, have released their first book titled “Understanding Mental Illness: A Comprehensive Guide to Mental Health Disorders for Family and Friends.”
The two psychiatrists met in 2013 through working for the same company. Within a year of meeting, they realized that they had similar interests in educating the community about mental disorders and began writing together. In their book, Dr. Barnes and Dr. Wills unveil some of the common myths about mental illness. They also write about different ways family and friends can help and be more understanding.
“Having more compassion and more understanding is a key message in our book,” said Dr. Wills. “We want people to have the same understanding and empathy for someone suffering from mental illness as they do for someone who is suffering from asthma or a cardiac condition.”
“Understanding Mental Illness: A Comprehensive Guide to Mental Health Disorders for Family and Friends”is broken up into chapters on different disorders. It addresses mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, mental illnesses in children and adolescence, and mental illness ties to homelessness. In each chapter readers can learn about different disorder through short case studies and definitions.
It also has components on the type of language and ideas to avoid when talking about mental disorders. Using words like crazy, psychotic, and bipolar are triggers that can make someone with a mental illness feel worse about their condition. Dr. Barnes and Dr. Wills want readers to understand that mental illness is not fake and is not something that someone can just shut off. They also want readers to know that mental illness is more common than people think. One in four adults experience a mental health disorder each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“When people think of mental health condition, often times their mind goes to the extreme but mental health conditions are very common. Major depression is a common one in adults and ADHD for children,” said Dr. Barnes. “There are many mental health conditions where people are able to function, go to school, go to college, and have careers.”
Mental illness stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain but can be treated and is not necessarily permanent. Some of the signs that a loved one is developing a mental illness are increase use of substances, erratic behavior, social isolation, abnormal thinking, feeling paranoid, and changes in mood, sleep or appetite. As a friend or family member of someone with a mental illness, the first step is to have a non-judgmental, but honest conversation about the changes that you’ve seen in their behavior. If they want to get help, their Primary Health Physician can refer them to a therapist or psychiatrist. For people without insurance, there are also free community mental health centers that can help.
Dr. Barnes and Dr. Wills give tons of resources in their book, including different websites, hot lines, and community centers that give support to people with mental illness. “Understanding Mental Illness: A Comprehensive Guide to Mental Health Disorders for Family and Friends”can be purchased at Barnes and Noble and online at Amazon.