COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update

Loyola Medicine is resuming select health care services. Learn more about resumption of services.

Human head illustration with gears and question marks.

Stopping the Stigma of Mental Illness Through Science and Education

October 9, 2015

What people don't know about mental illness can hurt. Research-based scientific facts, especially about the biological side of mental illness, help remove the stigma commonly associated with psychiatric and mood disorders. For example, researchers identified a biological predictor that in preliminary tests accurately predicted suicidal behavior 80 percent of the time, or more. The biomarker can be found in a simple blood test. Read more about the findings from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Loyola Medicine psychiatrist Murali Rao, MD Murali Rao, MD


"Mental illnesses have been thought of as disorders of behavior and disorders of mind," said Loyola Medicine psychiatrist Murali Rao, MD, FAPM, DLFAPA. "However with the ever increasing understanding of the workings of the brain . . . there needs to be a rethinking that these are in fact disorders of brain." With advancements in neuroimaging and diagramming of the brain, "in the near future, we may be able to detect several of these disorders very early." That could lead to early interventions "and perhaps even prevention," said Dr. Rao, who is chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences for Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

More than 43 million Americans experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That's nearly one in every five adults in the United States. Other facts from NAMI break down the prevalence of disorders and conditions:

  • More than 1 in 25 U.S. adults suffers mental illness that limits one or more major aspects of their life.
  • Among children, 21 percent of those ages 13-18 will have a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.
  • 1.1 percent of adults have schizophrenia.
  • 2.6 percent of adults have bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9 percent of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • More than 18 percent of adults experience an anxiety disorder.
  • Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14,
  • Three-quarters of all chronic mental illness begins by age 24.
  • Variations in common genes account for nearly 30 percent of risk for mental illness.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the third leading cause of death for people ages 10–24.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15–24.

Knowing warning signs can help let you know whether you or someone you are concerned about need to speak to a professional. These are a few of the warning signs, according to NAMI:

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks.
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships.
  • Intense worries or fears that interfere with daily activities.
  • Seriously making plans to harm or kill oneself, or trying to do so.
  • Severe out-of-control risk taking behavior.
  • Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits.

Read more about identifying a mental health condition or watch a video of the 10 most common warning signs. If you or anyone shows signs of mental illness or a mood disorder, you can schedule an appointment with one or our specialists by calling 888-584-7888. Loyola Medicine's psychiatry team provides clinically integrated pediatric and adult psychiatric care at the Loyola Outpatient Center and Fahey Center in Maywood, Loyola Center for Health at Burr Ridge and Loyola Center for Health at Oakbrook Terrace.