Mental Health: Illnesses and Conditions

Mental health is a broad term that refers to an individual's emotional well-being. Conditions that impact an individual's mental health are treatable and recovery is possible.

Many people experience a mental health challenge

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. (Wisconsin Behavioral Health Barometer, 2016 (PDF)) 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, lists 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 problems

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. 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. 

Types of mental illnesses

Mental illnesses include:

Individuals experiencing a mental illness also may be experiencing a substance use disorder at the same time. This is known as a co-occurring disorder.

Treatment works and recovery is possible

Wisconsin has long supported people living with a mental illness to manage their symptoms and experience the life they envisioned. The Division of Care and Treatment Services is responsible for allocating state and federal funding for mental health services, in addition to high-level planning, management, and oversight of these services in the state. Wisconsin offers a range of services from intensive inpatient hospitalization to less intensive outpatient care, backed by supportive programs to help individuals live and work more independently in their community. Learn more about mental health care and coverage in Wisconsin.

Community Programs and Services

Community-based programs are at the core of the Wisconsin mental health care system.  Learn about major community-based initiatives managed by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Please use this online search tool managed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to find community-based treatment providers.

Inpatient Programs and Services

Some people living with a mental illness need intensive treatment and care in order to better manage their symptoms. Learn more about inpatient programs and services managed by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Please use this online search tool managed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to locate local inpatient programs or services.

Wisconsin Council on Mental Health

The Wisconsin Council on Mental Health was created to advise the Governor, the Legislature, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services on the allocation of federal funding for mental health services. Meetings are held bimonthly and are open to the public. In 2018, meetings are scheduled on January 17, March 28, May 16, July 18, September 11 and 12, and November 14. At least 50 percent of the members are consumers and/or family members. Other members represent state agencies, mental health providers, and other organizations or groups.


Last Revised: September 12, 2018