Cynthia28's Blog

February 23, 2010

Mental illness and recovery

Filed under: Uncategorized — cynthia28 @ 9:42 pm


There is a growing movement in the treatment of mental illness. That movement is called the Recovery Movement. In the not to distant past, it was believed that people with a serious mental illness would not be able to do more then control their symptoms. They were often told they would do nothing productive in life, not have a job, or at least, not have a job that was more than dish washing, janitorial, or grounds keeping. People with mental illness were told what they had to do and what medications they must take. If they questioned the amount of medications, the dosage, the side effects or other treatment they received, they were called “non-compliant.”

Some of those who received a diagnosis that falls under the label of severely mentally ill decided they no longer wanted to be treated as a diagnosis, but as a person with a diagnosis. They told their doctors they wanted something better for their lives and wanted to make a difference. One such person is Dr. Patricia Deegan. Dr. Deegan was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was a teenager. The doctor told her the best she could hope for was to control the symptoms. She believed this for a while. Then, she decided she wanted more. She attended college and earned a Ph.D in Psychology. She has been a driving force in the recovery movement. Watch Dr. Deegan talk about her recovery  

There are a number of definitions of recovery from mental illness. What it does not mean that all symptoms are gone. Recovery means regaining some of the roles we fill in our lives, or did fill before the symptoms of the disease started. It means recovering some, if not all, of our living, learning, working, and social roles in life. A recovery model and definition from Mecklenburg’s Promis . Here is what SAMHSA has t say about the subject

Some of the basic ideas of the recovery movement are directly related to community psychology. One of the most important goals of the movement is to empower those with a diagnosis of a mental disorder. The hope is to teach them to ask questions of those they see for help, to get involved with their treatment and encourage them to bring family and friends with them through their journey of recovery. The goal is to give them the power to have a life that is not all about the illness.

Another issue was the idea that the person was the problem and the person must do as the system said. This is not so, anymore. The system was broken, is still not working so well, and is being fixed; slowly it is true, by small wins. Person first language and person centered planning are two keys to recovery. Person first language is simple. “Do not refer to me by my diagnosis. I am more then that.” Person centered planning means including the person’s goals, ideas, requests, needs and wants in the treatment. It means moving away from “you are ill and to get better you will do as we, ‘the experts’, tell you to do”, to “you have an illness and we, the experts, will ask you what you want, you need, and we will listen to your concerns. We will give you all options and help you choose how you want to proceed. We will encourage you to stay in the community of your choice and help you grow to your potential.”

Yes, the goals are set high for those with mental illness. But, why not? The goals are set high for every one else.

Just an interesting video to dispel some myths about mental illness,



  1. It would be nice if this were being done everywhere, but unfortunately it is not. Based on personal experience, I can tell you that far too often, people are labeled as “non-compliant” when they question their mental health providers, particularly teens. They are smarter than people give them credit for, and when they question their treatment, meds in particular, they can be slapped with the label of oppositional defiant. The unfortunate reality is, you have to be well informed about your disorder and the treatment options in order to get appropriate treatment. Sadly, there are far too many practitioners out there who are not using approved therapies, or are simply not very good at their jobs. If you don’t know what is available and can’t make an informed decision about treatment chances are good that you will get stuck in an endless unproductive cycle.


    Comment by phoenixfire64 — February 26, 2010 @ 5:44 am

    • I, too, wish this was more wide spread. It may take the new generation of mental health workers to change the way we treat people, medically and respectfully. It is the reason I am back in school. I want to make those small changes by modeling the behavior I would like to see in others. If I change how just one person thinks and acts, then there is hope for more. Kids do get the short end of things. And it is continued through their lives if no one helps them out of the cycle. I am preaching to the converted, I know.

      Comment by cynthia28 — February 26, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  2. What a good example of empowerment and also asset building. Language and labels are important.

    Comment by Professor L — March 4, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

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