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Analyzing Social Problems and Social Policy: Mental illnesses


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Analyzing Social Problems and Social Policy: Mental illnesses

Description and causes

Within modern society, mental health illness is one of the most effective problems experienced by most people. Mental health refers to behavioral, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Mental illness thus refers to a condition that affects an individual’s feelings, mood, thinking, and behaviors. Some of the most common mental illnesses include anxiety, major bipolar disorder, depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, and trauma.

Several factors usually bring about mental health challenges. One of the main factors leading to mental health challenges is substance abuse. According to a study by Smith et al. (2017), there is a high correlation between substance use and mental health challenges. Thus, substance use could be used as a predictor of mental illnesses. Additionally, early adverse life experiences, for example, exposure to violence and sexual assault, could lead to mental illnesses. Duin et al. (2018) support this view, who conducted empirical research on the role of adverse childhood experiences on mental health and found a positive relationship between the two variables.

Mental illnesses in society

According to the CDC (2021), 1 in 25 American citizens live with serious mental challenges including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a major depression. Additionally,1in every 5 American adults are diagnosed with at least one mental illness in any given year. The statistics indicate the high prevalence of mental health issues within modern society, hence why it is one of the main focus areas of social workers.

Risk Population

The issue of mental illness is typically experienced across the demographic scope affecting people of all ages and races. However, mental health issues are highly diverse along racial lines whereby adults exhibiting two or more races experience 31.7% prevalence compared to white adults with 22.2% (National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), 2019). This statistic indicates the prevalence of risk factors within the minority communities compared to the white ethnic groups. Some of the risk factors include disparities that come with racism, including poor access to quality mental health care and other social-economic constraints (McKnight, 2021).

Theories of Mental health

Some of the most effective theories used in explaining mental health issues include behaviorism, biological, cognitive, humanistic, and psychodynamic theories. Behaviorism theorists believe that life experiences manifest behaviors; for example, Freud’s theory suggests that the body undergoes several psychosexual stages. On the other hand, psychodynamic theories focus on the driving forces within individuals that motivate their behavior. An example is Erik Erikson’s theory which analyzes an individual’s growth through eight stages in exploring deficiencies in their behavior. On the other hand, cognitive theories emphasize that behaviors are shaped by attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of individuals. An example of a cognitive theory includes Piaget’s developmental theory and social-cultural cognitive theory.

The most common method applied by scholars in assessing and treating mental health issues involves therapy, whereby a counselor tries to evaluate the origin of the problem and its prevalence within society. One of the approaches undertaken by the government consists of the development of policies under the Affordable Care Policy (ACA) to promote accessibility and health-seeking behavior of people experiencing mental health issues. An example of such a policy is the accessibility of healthcare to as long as somebody has insurance coverage. According to Thomas et al. (2017), there have been positive results in the mental well-being of U.S citizens ever since the introduction of the policy. The improvement in mental well-being reflects the significance of accessibility as an approach towards solving mental health issues.



CDC. (2021, December). Learn about mental health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

McKnight-Eily, L. R., Okoro, C. A., Strine, T. W., Verlenden, J., Hollis, N. D., Njai, R., Mitchell, E. W., Board, A., Puddy, R., & Thomas, C. (2021). Racial and ethnic disparities in the prevalence of stress and worry, mental health conditions, and increased substance use among adults during the COVID-19 pandemic — United States, April and May 2020. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 70(5), 162-166.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIH). (2019). Mental Illness. NIMH » Home.

Smith, L. L., Yan, F., Charles, M., Mohiuddin, K., Tyus, D., Adekeye, O., & Holden, K. B. (2017). Exploring the link between substance use and mental health status: What can we learn from the self-medication theory? Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 28(2S), 113-131.

Thomas, K. C., Shartzer, A., Kurth, N. K., & Hall, J. P. (2017). Impact of ACA health reforms for people with mental health conditions. Psychiatric Services, 69(2), 231-234.

Van Duin, L., Bevaart, F., Zijlmans, J., Luijks, M. A., Doreleijers, T. A., Wierdsma, A. I., Oldehinkel, A. J., Marhe, R., & Popma, A. (2018). The role of adverse childhood experiences and mental health care use in psychological dysfunction of male multi-problem young adults. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 28(8), 1065-1078.






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