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Mental health, like physical health, can sometimes be poor, and mental health problems and disorders are common. At some point in their lives, almost everyone experiences mental health symptoms that temporarily impair their ability to function.

The most common symptoms are stress and sleep problems. Short-term mental ill-being is quite normal, as are normal reactions to everyday life, such as the grief after losing a loved one.

A mental health disorder is a state where mental symptoms are long-lasting and severe enough to cause significant impairment of functioning and daily life. Mental disorders are diagnosed illnesses. Diagnosis is always based on a medical examination and assessment.

Two psychiatric classification systems are used to diagnose mental disorders: the ICD system, developed by the World Health Organisation, and the DSM system, developed by the American Psychiatric Association.

One in five men and more than one in three women among students suffer from a mental disorder. Mental disorders often first appear in adolescence. Around one-half of mental health disorders in adults has emerged before the age of 14 and an estimated three out of four before the age of 24.


Early identification and treatment of a mental disorder is important to maintain quality of life and reduce the harm caused by the illness. There is no shame in seeking help and support, and it is worth seeking it when you or a loved one has concerns. Mental health care for university students is provided by the Finnish Student Health Service (YTHS) Other students can contact their local student health services or municipal mental health services for mental health issues.

Treatment for mental health disorders is always planned on an individual basis. The most common types of treatment can be divided into biological and psychosocial treatments. The most common biological treatment is medication. Psychosocial treatment includes counselling, psychotherapy, and various rehabilitation methods to support the patient’s functional capacity. A combination of medication and psychosocial treatment has been shown to produce good results.

It is possible to rehabilitate and recover even from serious long-term psychiatric illnesses. Recovery is often a long process. However, life with a mental health disorder can be as varied and meaningful as it is for anyone else.

The way other people and the environment treat mental disorders is essential for recovery. Mental health problems may be feared, and it can be difficult for many people to encounter someone with a serious mental health disorder. Information about mental health disorders can help dispel prejudices and change attitudes. We have a shared responsibility to change our attitudes for the positive.


Psychosis is a condition in which a person’s sense of reality is impaired and they have considerable difficulty in distinguishing between what is real and what is not. The most common manifestations of impaired reality are delusions or hallucinations.

Schizophrenia is the most common form of psychosis, or mental illness. It is a serious and complex psychiatric illness that often begins in young adulthood. It is characterised by fragmented thoughts, scarcity of emotional expression, and bizarre behaviour. Schizophrenia involves withdrawal and isolation, and the social functioning of the sufferer is significantly impaired.

Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the population.

Other psychosis disorders include delusional disorder, short-term psychosis, and schizoaffective disorder. Substance abuse or a physical illness such as dementia can also trigger psychotic symptoms.


Substance dependencies are classified as mental health disorders. An addiction can develop for a variety of substances. These include alcohol, cannabis, opiates, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines.

The main symptoms of substance dependency are a compulsion to use the substance and a craving for use. The most common symptom is difficulty in controlling the initiation, amount, or cessation of substance use. Substance use often continues despite the health-related, social and economic impairments it causes. Prolonged dependence can displace self-care, hobbies, relationships, study, or work.

Substance dependency is often associated with the development of a physiological addiction, where a person has a heightened tolerance to the effects of the substance or experiences varying degrees of withdrawal symptoms in the days following cessation. Withdrawal syndrome often causes a person to continue to use harmful substances. Access to treatment may be complicated by an inability to recognise or acknowledge the symptoms and impairments of addiction.

It is estimated that there are around half a million people in Finland whose alcohol consumption is above the risk limit of excessive consumption. Around 4% of the population is addicted to alcohol. There is no precise data on the number of drug addicts, but it is estimated that between 0.55% and 0.9% of the population aged 15 to 64 in Finland are problem users of amphetamines and opioids.