A significant component of an academic advancement for a student or professional pursuing a mental health continuing education program is the study of mental illness. This, after all, is the understanding of the psychological and behavioral symptoms that comprise a man, woman, or child's interaction or reaction to a person, place or thing as abnormal. There must first be an establishment of the parameters of normal development and response to life stimuli then there can be a comparison on a scale or within a spectrum that delineates the difference between the average response and the presence of a disorder. It is with the presence of a disorder that professional psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric social workers must identify in order to diagnose the proper treatment accordingly. Therefore, a mental health continuing education program is responsible for preparing professionals to develop their observational skills, interpersonal empathy, familiarity with known psychological diagnosis, effective medicines for the condition, and approaches for therapy options. As a student or established professional carries on with their mental health continuing education program they discover that there are many varying causes of cognitive and behavioral disorders. First, traumatic incident such as head trauma, violence, or chronic illness are all possible triggers for some men and women dealing with psychological impairment. Second, there are life stages that can place inordinate emotional or psychological stress on a teenager, new mom, elderly man or woman. Lastly, there are the indistinguishable causes of the rise of mental illness symptoms in adolescents, adults and elderly individuals. Mental illness can be brought on or grow out of a variety of circumstances such as a phobia, substance abuse, or after surgery incident. Students in social work continuing education programs will become aware of the fact that all humans do have a mental and emotional breaking point. This can be brought on by a variety of environmental stresses from family, intimate relationships, academics, career pressures to self- esteem. With this information, young students and established professionals can offer the men, women, children, and elderly individuals of any community the benefit of their research and training to help improve their quality of life. Whether the patient requires one or a combination approach of medication and therapy in order to manage their illness, the professionals emerging from these degree programs have an opportunity to change lives affected by the hormonal, physical, and relationship altering symptoms of mental illness, throughout their lives.