Nearly half of Americans will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime, according to a recently published report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About one in four Americans are currently suffering from mental illness, and the hardest hit are those living in the Southeast. Mississippi has the highest rate of depression among all the U.S. states, with 13.7 percent diagnosed. Over nine percent of Tennessee residents suffer from some form of serious psychological distress, which can often lead to suicide.

There are unacceptably high levels of mental illness in the United States, said Ileana Arias, principal deputy director of the CDC, in a statement. Essentially, about 25 percent of adult Americans reported having a mental illness in the previous year. In addition to the high level, we were surprised by the cost associated with that -- we estimated about $300 billion in 2002.

Mental illness is frequently seen as a moral issue or an issue of weakness, Arias continued. It is a condition no different from cancer or other chronic diseases. People need to accept the difficulties they are having and avail themselves of the resources that are available.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that mental illnesses account for more disability in develop countries than any other types of illnesses, including cancer and heart diseases.

The most common mental illnesses in adults are anxiety and mood disorders, which both vary greatly in severity. The impact ranges from minor disruptions in life to incapacitating critical life functions and causing premature death.

Moreover, mental illness exacerbates morbidity in serious (and associated) conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and epilepsy.

Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told USA Today that simple wellness measures -- getting enough sleep, healthy eating, regular exercise -- can help stave off illness.

Understanding how to deal with psychological stresses is also important, he said. How to deal with emotional reactivity and stress tolerances are also important skills to develop early in life.