“Recovery is not about finding a miracle cure or returning to how things used to be. It’s about finding a happier, healthier, more sustainable life that recognizes the past, accepts the limitations of the present and is full of hope for the future.” — Simon Heyes
Although there have been a wide range of creative ideas, theories, beliefs and speculations about mental illness throughout the centuries, most of them have been proven to be false. Current research tells us that mental illness can disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. However, just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illness is a biological medical condition that often results in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion or income and cannot be overcome through “willpower” and are not related to a person’s “character” or “intelligence level.” Severe and serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.
The good news about mental illness is that effective treatment is available. In the past, federal and state funding through community mental health centers determined what kinds of services were offered.
“Luckily, things have improved and treatment is now much more individualized,” says Doug Bradley, LifeSkills clinical director of adult services. “In the past, formal mental health services provided support for people with mental illness. Many people either became dependent upon the system or they became frustrated with the system, due to lack of service offerings.
“Today,” Bradley adds, “the mental health system is simply one tool in the toolbox that consumers can use in their journey toward recovery. Our goal is to help consumers realize that recovery is not tied to any formal mental health system, but is in their own hands.”
Recovery generally refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities. For some, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite a disability. For others, recovery means the reduction or complete remission of symptoms. Ultimately, because recovery is a personal and unique process, everyone with a mental illness develops his or her own definition; however, there are certain concepts or factors that are common in most cases.
To have a confident expectation of ongoing recovery can actually fuel the recovery process. “One of the most important things a family member can do is to have hope themselves,” Bradley says, “to believe that this illness is treatable and that recovery is possible.”
Finding the right combination of medications and dealing with the side effects can be an extremely frustrating process. However, most people with mental illness agree that medications are crucial to their success. Many strive not to be medication-free, but rather to take the least amount necessary. Working in partnership with a treatment provider is a valuable component to recovery.
The belief that one has power and control in his or her life, including his or her illness, is an important aspect to recovery. It involves taking responsibility and advocating for yourself and for others. As recovery progresses, a greater sense of empowerment is gained.
Support from peers, family members, friends and mental health professionals is essential to recovery. It is especially beneficial to have multiple sources of support to not only reduce the feelings of isolation, but also increase involvement in the community. Participation in support groups allows interactions with others who have similar feelings and experiences.
Learning as much as possible about illnesses, medications, best treatment practices and available resources can serve to maximize recovery. Talk to health care providers, attend workshops and support groups, and read books, articles and newsletters. Browse the Internet and participate in discussion groups.
Professional treatment is valuable, but self-help is viewed as a primary tool in the recovery process. Self-help can take many forms, including learning to identify symptoms and ways to counteract them, developing coping skills and establishing support systems.
For many, spirituality provides hope and solace during the recovery process along with peace, understanding and a source of social support.
A person’s identity is greatly impacted by what they do. Employment and/or other meaningful activities can allow people with mental illness to regain positive identities, while increasing their sense of purpose and value.
— Maureen Mahaney coordinates public information for LifeSkills Inc., a nonprofit, behavioral health care corporation that plans for and serves the people of southcentral Kentucky in three main areas: mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities. Her column appears monthly.
Source: Bg daily news.
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