Mental illness is common and treatable

Mental illness is a lot more common than the public may think, an Oakwood Healthcare physician said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Illness, about 18.6 percent of the U.S. population experiences mental illness. That means one in every four families – and one in five women – is affected by the condition.

For women, the combination of hormonal changes and stress can lead to depression. Oakwood Family Medicine physician, Dr. Anke Robinson, said these signs shouldn’t be ignored.

She stressed the importance regular physicals and wellness visits to discuss health concerns – especially for those feeling overwhelmed and fatigued.

“Let’s face it; we have a lot on our plates,” Robinson said. “Many women who work outside the home are also primarily responsible for child care, running the household and caring for aging parents.

“Women often manage the needs of their kids, partners and parents before they take care of themselves and if a woman has ever experienced sexual or domestic abuse, she’s also more likely to develop depression.”

With millions of Americans living with a mental illness, identifying resources, education and advocacy is more important than ever, Robinson said.

For the past 10 years, Oakwood Healthcare has partnered with the National Institute of Mental Illness – Metro chapter in providing free resources and information to families. The goal is to help those who need it most while working to reduce the stigma associated with a diagnosis.

“People either don’t know about mental illness or they’re afraid to talk about it when they do,” said Tamera Varkas, Oakwood Healthcare recipient rights advisor. “My work life is touched daily by people who have mental illness or it’s in their family and they’re at a loss — they don’t know what to do.”

Programs like NAMI provide educational resources and advocate to decrease the stigma and relieve feelings of shame.

“Mental health doesn’t have to be devastating to families,” said Varkas. “There’s nothing to feel shameful about. It’s a brain disorder and should be treated by a physician just like any other illness.”

Depression is one of the most common and well known of the brain disorders.
Robinson said signs and symptoms can include:
• Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
• Loss of interest in what you like to do or thoughts of harming yourself or suicide.
• Significant changes in your sleeping habits or your appetite.
• A noticeable gain or loss of  weight.
• Feeling fatigued or having pain that doesn’t seem to have a cause .

“It’s good to get your arms around how many people this affects – not only in general, but in the corporate world,” Varkas said. “To know there are lawyers, teachers, neighbors who have been touched by this is powerful.”

Anyone with signs of depression can contact their doctor to help find ways to feel better.

“Live well and protect your long term health,” Robinson said. “Early detection gives you best opportunity to manage health conditions. Don’t wait to get help and there’s no need to feel ashamed. Depression is common and also treatable.”

To find out more information and to watch Robinson’s video series on women’s health issues, including depression, go to

Go to for additional information, educational resources and support groups for those with a mental illness and their families.