Danya Institute Inc.

“Introduction to Mental Illness” Training at the D.C. Department of Mental Health

On September 20, 2013, the District of Columbia’s Department of Mental Health conducted a free three-hour training seminar titled “Introduction to Mental Illness” which this author attended.  Although open to the general public, most of those in attendance dealt in some professional capacity with individuals with mental illness, but still felt the need to become better informed.

Some of the key takeaways of this presentation were particularly timely given the recent tragic mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.  Takeaways included:

  1. Individuals with mental illness are no more likely than the general population to be violent.  In fact, they are far more apt to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it.  The vast majority of those who suffer from paranoia manifest their symptoms in feelings of fear and suspicion, but not in aggression.
  2. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an excellent resource.  It is “ the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research.”
  3. Mental illness is defined as a health condition, similar to any other medical condition.  Diagnosis depends not just on the symptoms but on whether the symptoms impact a person’s level of functioning on a daily basis.
  4. The Recovery Model, developed by SAMHSA and encouraged through Medicaid, is the most effective approach.  It combines support from the community with an empowered “consumer” to create a “person centered” treatment plan.
  5. 1 in 4 American adults experience mental illness in a given year.[i]
  6. Even those with chronic conditions experience “peaks and valleys”.  Since we know that “the more stress, the more problems”, we can still improve the lives of those individuals with chronic conditions by reducing the stressful circumstances in their lives.
  7. It takes time and usually several interviews to make a complete diagnosis.  Symptoms will often be listed as “provisional” or “r/o” (for “rule out”) until they can be confirmed or eliminated.
  8. There is a great need for more of these training seminars, not only among the general public but for those who encounter individuals with mental illness in a professional capacity.


[i] Mental Illness Facts and Numbers. (2013). Retrieved October 4, 2013, from http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf

Learn More:

  1. Register for the next Introduction to Mental Illness and other classes here: DC DBH Training Institute
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)


Simone Fary was previously employed at The Danya Institute as an Instructional Design and Technology Specialist.