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Mental Health and Mental Illness Fundamentals: Part 1
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes, PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director: AllCEUs Counselor Education
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox, Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery, Addiction Counselor Exam Review
~ Explore the neuroscience of mental health
~ Explore how mental illness manifests itself
~ Learn about the prevalence (epidemiology) and costs of mental illness
~ Explore the biological, psychosocial and individual risk factors for mental illness and review the difference between correlation, causation and consequences
Neuroscience of Mental Health
~ Creation of emotions and our ability to think and perceive things occurs in the brain
~ The workings of the brain depend on the nerve cells being able to communicate with each other
~ Structural
~ Nutritional
~ Each neuron makes over 1000 connections
~ The frontal lobe is involved with motor behavior
~ The prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning and integrating cognitive and emotional streams of information
~ The brain continues to develop until about age 25
Neuroscience Cont.
~ Electrical signals from the neuron are converted to chemicals called neurotransmitters
~ Neurotransmitters are released from the sending neuron into the space between neurons. They attach like a key into a “lock” called a receptor. This triggers the receiving neuron to pass on the signal.
~ The more receptors that are stimulated the more intense the reaction
~ Excitatory Neurotransmitters include norepinephrine and glutamate
~ Inhibitory neurotransmitters include GABA and to some extent serotonin (14).
~ Other neurotransmitters include dopamine (5), acetylcholine, endorphins (natural opiates), substance P (pain, anxiety, stress)

Neuroscience cont…
~ Neurotransmitter availability is impacted by
~ The presence of other neurotransmitters and hormones
~ Quality and quantity of the neurotransmitter
~ Vitamins and minerals help break down amino acids (proteins) to make neurotransmitters.
~ Without proper nutrition and adequate stress management the neurons will not be able to function effectively.

Manifestation of Mental Illness
~ Rapid heart rate
~ Muscle tension
~ Light headedness
~ Fatigue
~ Appetite changes
~ Dysregulation of mood
~ Fear/anxiety
~ Irritability/anger
~ Depression
~ Cognitive dysfunction (difficulty with memory or concentration as in depression or dementia)
~ Disturbances of thought and perception (hallucinations and delusions)

~ Triggers the fight or flight response
~ OCD, panic disorder and phobias are in this family
~ OCD has components of
~ Anxious emotions
~ Obsessional thinking
~ Behavioral compulsions
~ About 20% of the US struggles with a mental illness in any given year (both adults and children).
~ In 1996 over 100 billion dollars was spend as a direct cost of mental illness in the US
~ It is estimated that >45% of people will experience an addiction in their lifetime
~ Risk and protective factors
~ Individual
~ Biological
~ Psychosocial
~ Correlation, causation leading to consequences
Epidemiology cont…
~ Causes of health and disease are generally viewed as a product of the interplay or interaction between biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors
~ Biopsychosocial model
~ One factor by itself may not weigh heavily, but the combination of factors are exponentially additive

Biological Factors
~ Mental disorders arise in part from defects not in single genes, but in multiple genes
~ No single gene or even a combination of genes dictates whether someone will have an illness or a particular behavioral trait. Rather, mental illness appears to result from the interaction of multiple genes that confer risk
~ No gene is equivalent to fate for mental illness. This gives us hope that modifiable environmental risk factors can eventually be identified and become targets for prevention efforts
~ Even with a high level of heritability, however, it is essential to point out that environmental factors (e.g., psychosocial environment, nutrition, health care access) can play a significant role in the severity and course of a disorder
Biological cont…
~ Infectious agents can penetrate into the brain where they can cause mental disorders
~ HIV-associated dementia
~ Caused not by direct infection of neurons, but by infection of immune cells known as macrophages which indirectly cause dysfunction and death in nearby neurons by releasing toxins
~ Herpes simplex encephalitis
~ Measles encephalomyelitis
~ Rabies encephalitis
~ New classification of OCD called PANDAS: pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infection
~ PANDAS are caused by antibodies against the strep infection that also manage to attack the basal ganglia region of the child’s brain
Biological Protective Factors
~ Adequate prenatal care
~ Adequate medical care
~ Proper hygiene and health practices
Psychosocial Protective Factors
~ Young children
~ Attachments to responsive caregivers
~ Consistency in rules and parental supervision
~ All
~ Environment: Safe, nurturing, stimulating
~ Protection from
~ Abuse and neglect
~ Abandonment and life stress
~ Household member with mental illness or substance use disorder
~ Household conflict/family dysfunction
~ Consistent support
~ Positive peer relationships
~ School success
~ A sense of control over environment
Individual Protective Factors
~ Full term birth (Prematurity)
~ Early intervention for
~ Developmental delays (Genetic or illness related)
~ Physical disabilities
~ Comorbid mental health issues
~ Temperament
~ High self-esteem
~ Nutrition
~ Sleep

~ Mental health is largely impacted by the functioning of the brain and the learning experiences of the person.
~ Damage to the brain itself or problems in neurotransmitter functioning can lead to mental illness.
~ Biological protection includes proper prenatal care and avoidance of viruses and substances which can harm the fetus or person
~ Psychosocial protection includes ensuring a safe, supportive environment, and the development of healthy coping skills.
~ Individual protection includes good health behaviors, development of self-esteem, understanding one’s temperament and needs and receiving early intervention for any traumas, developmental delays or disabilities.
Other Videos
~ Playlists
~ Self Esteem
~ Child Development
~ Infant Toddler Development (Early Intervention)