The mental illnesses I usually hang out with are agoraphobia, panic attacks, ptsd, and bipolar disorder. I'm not offering a list to be cute, it's not complete, and some are related. My opinion is that I am genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder (maybe mental health issues in general) and the rest are a result of growing up with limited coping skills in an area that wanted nothing to do with me, coupled with a cascade of mind-boggling life events that seem hellbent on destroying my tree-house.
I take a lot of medication, the bulk of it to keep my brain from snapping and leaking out my ear. I am well aware of the fact that I take a lot of medication. People will gasp and murmur and ask if I think I really need to be taking all these prescription drugs. Cross my heart, I would rather be taking zero drugs, but I'd be taking a whole lot more if I wasn't an involved and educated patient. I am a "compliant" patient (one who takes my meds exactly as ordered by my physician), but only after a whole lot of discussion about the options (including the complimentary and alternative ones). I'm doing a lot of non-drug therapy and I pay close attention to my diet. I'm particularly down with Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food".
I definitely think it's important to be aware of the role of prescription drug companies, insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, government, etc. in the business of healthcare. It's supremely important to be your own advocate. If you can't, I hope someone who cares about you can and will take up the mantle. Sometimes, we all need to be carried a little farther down the road.
Spotlight on NAMI, because I think they're rad: "[Since 1979], NAMI has established itself as the most formidable grassroots mental health advocacy organization in the country." Their website is an extensive resource for information on specific disorders, fighting stigma, treatment and support, legislative action, etc. They are accessible, helpful, and genuine. Please go forth and support them!