Written by Paul E. Keck Jr., M.D.,  president and CEO of Lindner Center of HOPE and a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

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Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Woolf, Eugene O’Neill, Leo Tolstoy, Tennessee Williams, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Carrie Fisher, Mike Wallace, Patty Duke, Demi Lovato, Catherine Zeta-Jones – all talented and gifted individuals, each has made unique contributions to society, are heroes to many and all have touched our lives in one way or another.

Is it surprising that these individuals have experienced a mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and/or personality disorder? It shouldn’t be. Mental illness affects one in four individuals, and five of the top 10 causes of disability worldwide are due to psychiatric illness. They strike men and women in almost equal proportions and affect people of all ages, ethnic groups and socioeconomic levels.

Although we have never had better evidence-based treatment and more achievable recovery for most psychiatric disorders, substantial stigma still exists and creates barriers for people needing and seeking treatment. Massive improvement is also needed in reimbursement for mental health care. Though these illnesses are as devastating for families as cancer and heart disease, society perpetuates disparities in support for individuals and families faced with mental illness.

Through research, great advancements in genetics, diagnosis and treatments have been made. In addition, we continue to increase awareness about the nature of suicide and the co-occurrence of mental illness and addiction.

Mental illness can be an uncomfortable topic, but when people share their stories, awareness grows and compassion is cultivated. We have an opportunity, in our community, to be leaders in improving access to high-quality mental health services, not only for humanitarian reasons, but based on economic imperatives.

Enhancing the health and well-being of our communities depends on a collective effort. No one organization, business or advocate can do it alone. I commend the nationally well-known individuals who share their stories of hope and also thank the everyday heroes in our communities who also face the effects of mental illness.

Everyone experiences some level of worry or anxiety from time to time. But when that worry or anxiousness becomes overwhelming or subsists for long periods of time, there may be a deeper issue at hand.

In a given year, anxiety disorders affect roughly 18 percent of Americans over the age of 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Following are descriptions of some of the more prominent anxiety disorders:

Panic Disorder: A panic attack is a brief period of intense uneasiness, fear or distress. The duration of these attacks can range anywhere from minutes to a few hours. While the cause is not completely clear, it is thought that the tendency toward panic attacks could be genetic or linked to a traumatic occurrence in an individual’s life. Those suffering from panic disorders display an inability to properly process stressful situations and therefore react to them with a heightened sense of fear and apprehensiveness.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Those suffering with OCD are bombarded with persistent thoughts and fears usually focusing on one area. They develop repetitive behaviors in an attempt to “control” the things causing their fears, and end up becoming obsessed with their rituals.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is the result of a terrifying or traumatic event in one’s life where they will re-experience the event and react with intense fear, anger, anxiety or even numbness. These episodes are usually brought about by exposure to a situation, thought or image reminding them of the original experience.

A combination of psychotherapy, behavior modification and medications are used for OCD treatment, PTSD treatment and the treatment of most other anxiety disorders. Mental health professionals continue to gain a better understanding of anxiety-related disorders, which has resulted in more effective methods of therapy.