The Tucson, Arizona tragedy has been on the tongues and minds of the nation over the past week. The tragedy has indeed caused conversations regarding mental illnesses to move forward as it typically does on the heals of a tragedy such as this. The lesson, therefore, is still the same: undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses can lead to tragic consequences. This includes suicide and homicide.

It is important to understand that most persons with a mental illness do not commit violent acts. The average person who is under treatment and/or taking medications as prescribed, do not become violent. The violent acts that make the news headlines involve the more extreme and/or serious untreated mental illness. There are more acts of violence committed against people that do not make the headlines every day such as with homeless persons, domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, etc., but we have a greater understanding of reality when it makes the news and lives are lost needlessly as well.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (Visit SAMSHA at, more persons with an untreated mental illness will die prematurely from other diseases (i.e., heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.) than those who commit violent acts.

What is a mental illness?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Visit NAMI at, it is any brain disorder such as Chronic Depression, Bipolar, ADHD, ADD, OCD, PTSD, Anxiety/Panic Disorders, Schizophrenia, and a multitude of other mental illnesses.

A brain disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is no cure for brain disorders. There is effective treatment of all brain disorders that will allow persons diagnosed with a mental health condition to live a quality of life the same way any other physical health condition can do so (i.e., diabetes, AIDS/HIV, Hypertension, etc.). The key to living a quality of life is to seek treatment and education.

Some of the typical symptoms of Depression include lack of concentration, lack of energy, sudden loss of appetite or sudden increase in appetite, interruption of your normal sleep routine, excessive worry, very low self-esteem, unexplained aches and pains, alcohol/drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, intense periods of sadness, hopelessness, denial anything is wrong, lack of interest in sex, and suicide thoughts.

Some of the typical symptoms of Bipolar include mood swings, racing thoughts, grandiose thoughts (for example, you believe you are Oprah), Depression, inability to sleep, risky behavior (driving at excessive speeds for fun), poor judgment (understanding consequences of driving at excessive speed), alcohol/drug abuse, reckless behaviors, low self esteem, and denial anything is wrong.

When a person is struggling with several of these symptoms at one time and the symptoms last longer than two weeks and are persistent, that person should see a doctor. Visiting a doctor is the only wayt to determine if a chemical imbalance exists and what course of treatment is necessary. Visiting a doctor does not always mean the person has to take medication, or seek counseling. However, only a doctor can make that determination. Taking medication and/or seeing a doctor can be short term or long term. Each person is different so treatment will vary.

The most important part of treatment is education! This is learning as much as you can about the diagnosis and treatment and coping and managing your life with the diagnosis. This will enable persons with a mental health condition such as Depression or Bipolar to have a quality of life.

Author's Bio: 

Agnes B. Levine
Founder/President Levine-Oliver Publisher
Author of: "Cooling Well Water: A Collection
of Work By An African-American Bipolar Woman"
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
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