What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness, also called mental health disorder, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions - disorders that affect a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior or a combination of these. Just as the phrase “physical illness” is used to describe a range of physical health problems, the term "mental illness" encompasses a variety of mental health conditions. Examples of mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders. [1]

Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. However, a mental health concern can become a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function, work, relate, and interact with others.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a medical problem, just like heart disease or diabetes.

Signs & Symptoms of Mental Illness

Good mental health means being able to think, feel and react in the ways you need and want to live your life [2]. During a period of poor mental health, you might find it difficult or even impossible to think, feel, or behave the way you want.

Mental health problems can manifest themselves in many ways. For example, difficulties coping with daily chores, feelings of sadness or irritability, emotional outbursts, weight or appetite changes, or sleeping problems could be signs of mental illness [3]. Often, it's not a single change but a combination.

Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these. There also can be various intolerable emotional states such as sadness, anger, shame, helplessness, guilt, or fear behind the disorders.

According to WHO, close to 1 billion people live with a mental disorder, and more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. In general, one in six experiences depression during their lifetime. [4]

Remote Technology Gets Its Foot In The Door

It’s been over a year since COVID-19 emerged. However, we still clearly remember the changes it brought to our daily lives. Along with all the uncertainty also came increased stress, anxiety, and depression for many individuals. Fear of infections and financial unsustainability, among others, are examples of factors that have caused concern.

Right now, the public conversation about the need for effective mental health treatment continues to persist.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused urgency for healthcare providers, physicians, and patients to rapidly implement innovative virtual care solutions (e.g., telehealth, remote patient monitoring (RPM), digital symptom checkers, etc.) [5]. Virtual healthcare technology was an inevitable step in coping with the pandemic. The need and shift towards virtual care were so rapid that it also caused a high level of market disruption [6].

More than ever, the healthcare systems have realized the value of virtual treatment strategies since virtual care strategies like telehealth and remote patient monitoring allow health centers and health systems to treat patients safely from their homes. And many patients and physicians are now more ready for the healthcare system to be virtual than before COVID-19. [6]

According to a survey conducted by Accenture, at least 60 percent of patients who used virtual care tools during the pandemic want to use technology to communicate with their healthcare providers and manage their conditions in the future [7].

It has been observed that the pandemic has changed attitudes and expectations towards new digital tools in a positive way [7]. And there is proof that these solutions can lead to better and more proactive care [6].

What we are seeing and hearing here is that virtual care has its potential - and it is here to stay.


  1. “What are mental health problems?” Mentalhealth.org, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/about-mental-health/what-are-mental-health-problem

  2. “What is good mental health?” Mental Health Foundation, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/about-mental-health/what-good-mental-health

  3. “Mental Health Conditions: Depression and Anxiety.” CDC, 2020. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/depression-anxiety.html

  4. “World Mental Health Day: An opportunity to kick-start a massive scale-up in investment in mental health.” WHO, 2020. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.who.int/news/item/27-08-2020-world-mental-health-day-an-opportunity-to-kick-start-a-massive-scale-up-in-investment-in-mental-health?fbclid=IwAR28d6jTd_bPg1d5reQ8qzlJ6lHi5BIeTWb6YOTqKFH2WOH4NCtMG783doU

  5. “The Far-Reaching Impact of COVID-19 on Virtual Behavioral Health.” Triple-tree, 2020. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.triple-tree.com/strategic-insights/2020/april/the-far-reaching-impact-of-covid-19-on-virtual-beh/

  6. “[On-demand] 2021 State of healthcare: The rise of virtual care". Validic, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://validic.com/on-demand-2021-state-of-healthcare-the-rise-of-virtual-care/

  7. “Patients want to keep using virtual care after COVID-19 pandemic ends, survey finds”. Fierce Healthcare, 2020. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/practices/patients-want-to-keep-using-virtual-care-after-covid-19-pandemic-ends-survey-finds

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