Certain factors may increase your risk of developing mental health problems, including:

  • Having a biological (blood) relative, such as a parent or sibling, with a mental illness
  • Experiences in the womb — for example, having a mother who was exposed to viruses, toxins, drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
  • Experiencing stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one's death or a divorce
  • Having a chronic medical condition, such as cancer
  • Experiencing brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head
  • Having traumatic experiences, such as military combat or being assaulted
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Being abused or neglected as a child
  • Having few friends or few healthy relationships
  • Having a previous mental illness

Mental illness is common. About 1 in 4 adults has a mental illness in any given year. About half of U.S. adults will develop a mental illness sometime in their lives. Mental illness can begin at any age, from childhood through later adult years.

Sep. 15, 2012