In May, American Psychiatric Publishing (APP), the publishing division of the APA, will publish Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition. This book will provide valuable insight on what to expect from an illness and its treatment.

Understanding Mental Disorders will help combat mental illness through education and early recognition and helping foster the use of a shared language that can improve understanding and communication.

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People also need the facts about their rights to access to quality mental health care. APA has been focusing efforts on mental health parity —  on making sure that mental illnesses are treated fairly, equally and like all other medical illnesses.  The public education poster we created on parity arms patients with knowledge of what a parity violation looks like and what to do about it.

A major focus of the Change Direction campaign is to help people recognize early signs of mental distress and encourage them to reach out. Change Direction identifies five signs that a person may be experiencing mental distress and may need help:

1. Personality changes.

2. Uncharacteristic anger, anxiousness, agitation, or moodiness.

3. Withdrawal or isolation from others.

4. Poor self-care or engaging in risky behavior.

5. Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances.

The campaign encourages people who see a friend, coworker, or loved one suffering to reach out, offer help, show compassion and caring, and a willingness to find a solution.

“We know that mental health is just as vital as our physical health, so it’s time we started treating it that way,” Michelle Obama said at the launch.  “And that’s going to take courage from everybody  — courage to reach out and have those tough conversations with a friend. The courage to listen, and seek help for ourselves when necessary.”

Mental health conditions are no different than cancer, diabetes, or any other illnesses and our approach to treating them should reflect that.

For more information about the Campaign to Change Direction, visit

Saul Levin, MD, MPA, is CEO and Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Association.