This is a serious question, and the answer isn’t quite as simple as “yes” or “no.” However, the medical community is intrigued by the concept that with the right information and action, we might have the ability to lessen the impact of mental and emotional disorders and foster better health management for life.
Are Disorders Inherited?
According to Johns Hopkins, some diseases are inherited, such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and sickle cell anemia. Chronic conditions known to run in families include diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. There’s also proof of certain inheritable cancers, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast, pancreatic, and prostate. People who know their family history or need a better health record can test for these risks.
While the National Institute of Mental Health indicates there’s currently not a concrete genetic test that determines whether you’ve inherited a mental illness, other NIH studies acknowledge “common genetic factors in five mental disorders,” including:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Major depression
Unfortunately, predicting even these mental health conditions by genetic association isn’t a guarantee, as “it can account for only a small amount of risk for mental illness,” study leaders note: “Because of this, the variations couldn’t yet be used to predict or diagnose specific conditions.” Additionally, there’s evidence linking heritable factors to addiction by as much as 50 percent—but there’s not a predictive test for it, either.
Factors That Contribute to Developing Mental Disorders
So even if someone has a genetic predisposition for a mental health disorder, many other aspects create a gateway for risk, such as:
- Current environment, which includes a person’s unique situation and life perspective, stressors, conflicts, medical issues, social relationships, and so on.
- Early environment, such as individuals who suffered a form of trauma or have three or more adverse childhood experiences.
- Epigenetics, or the study of transgenerational trauma, such as descendents of war survivors or systemic racism.
- Family patterns, which involve interpersonal relations, coping mechanisms, and dynamics.
- Dysregulation of the brain’s neurobiology
Protective factors, on the other hand, are key components within families and communities for an individual to navigate the biological and environmental waters more effectively. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services outlines the top protective factors that bolster mental health outcomes, especially in children, which we provide verbatim:
- Nurturing and attachment
- Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
- Parental resilience
- Social connections
- Concrete supports for parents
- Social and emotional competence of children
One critical point to remember is that, given the right catalyst, anyone can develop a mental or emotional health issue. For example, a person who experiences PTSD or complicated grief might not have the “typical” risk factors, but they’re still suffering and deserve quality care. So, what are the steps for better health?
What Mental Health Prevention Looks Like
Some experts believe the best prevention for mental health issues is to:
- Provide an open forum for discussion to reduce the stigma.
- Promote more awareness of various conditions.
- Be transparent with and encourage additional resources and support programs.
- Develop more progressive solutions for individualized treatment.
The Mental Health Foundation of Scotland defines “prevention” in three stages:
Primary prevention: “stopping mental health problems before they start.”
These actions promote “good mental health for all,” including and benefiting everyone in a community. Talking to teens about mental health, generating more awareness through targeted campaigns, and other initiatives help raise the curtain covering mental and emotional health.
Secondary prevention: “supporting those at higher risk of experiencing mental health problems.”
This acknowledges that certain individuals might be at greater risk for developing mood disorders because of particular characteristics or experiences. This includes members of BIPOC and LGBTQAI+ communities, as well as people in the criminal justice system and those suffering from generational trauma, chronic illness, substance and alcohol abuse, and other issues. The focus should be on expanding resources for support and attentive treatment.
Tertiary prevention: “helping people living with mental health problems to stay well.”
Extend knowledge about and application of holistic therapies and other methods to help people lessen the effects of symptoms, avoid suicide ideation, reduce the risk of relapse, and manage their well-being more effectively.
Mental Health America adds that critical policy changes regarding healthcare and societal issues provide a foundation of prevention, especially early intervention. “Studies show that half of those who will develop mental health disorders show symptoms by age 14,” it states. “We know that the time between prenatal development and early adulthood is crucial for the brain. Despite this knowledge, we continue to fail our children by ignoring problems until they reach crisis levels. Instead of investing in prevention and early intervention programs and providing access to appropriate services, we have unconscionable rates of suicide, school drop-out, homelessness, and involvement in the juvenile justice system.”
Progressive Mental Health Care at Cottonwood Tucson
Through Cottonwood’s behavioral health treatment, our board-certified clinical team identifies core issues, uncovering and resolving long-standing psychological problems that contribute to mood disorders. More importantly, we help patients to discover and change maladaptive attitudes, behavior, and beliefs through individualized treatment solutions. If you or a loved one is ready for this type of care, please talk with one of our admissions specialists.