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Mental Health: Illnesses and Conditions

The term mental illness refers to many different types of mental health challenges. A mental illness is a condition that disrupts a person's thoughts, feelings, social skills, and/or daily living.

Mental illnesses impact thousands of Wisconsin residents each year. People often ask why. While researchers have long studied the causes of mental illnesses, there is no clear evidence that shows why some people are affected and others are not. However, many factors that contribute to mental illnesses, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry.
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse.
  • Family history of mental health concerns.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services works to prevent and treat mental health illnesses and provide supports for people seeking or already in recovery.

Call 211 to learn about mental health resources in your community.

Signs and symptoms

Like a physical health condition, recognizing and seeking treatment for a mental health condition at the onset of the signs and symptoms leads to more positive outcomes.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a list of feelings and behaviors that may be an early indication of a mental health condition.  These feelings and behaviors include:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Avoiding people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others

It's important to talk about your emotional and social well-being with your primary care doctor, another health professional, or other trusted resource in your community. 


Some mental illness topics include:

People who experience a mental illness also may experience a substance use disorder at the same time. 

Resilient Wisconsin

Resilient Wisconsin is a statewide initiative to improve the conditions in which people work, live, and grow. 

Related resources

Last revised February 20, 2024