Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recovery from Mental Illness

The thought is actually quite foreign to many of us-- or, dare I say, most of us in the general public. We believe that a diagnosis of mental illness is permanent, impossible to overcome, and a deeply embedded part of a person's character. What we don't seem to recognize is the similarities between mental illness and, for instance, homelessness or poverty. Not in terms of how they are often present simultaneously in a person's life, but in terms of how any of us could find ourselves there at some time in our lives, as long as a particular set of conditions are present (or absent). For example, if you don't have sufficient supports or resources in place, an emotionally upsetting incident of enough intensity could send you into a diagnosis of "mentally ill." Similarly, if you don't have enough financial resources in place (savings) or other options (family to live with, other job offers, etc.), losing your job or having a significant monetary "incident" such as a huge medical bill could send you towards homelessness or poverty. In this way, both of these situations could be temporary, depending on the type of care you get and how you are able to access resources and support while you recover from the devastating original incident.

Psychiatrist Daniel Fisher describes this in more detail in his article, posted on several websites including that of the National Empowerment Center (among others). He also gives a great interview on YouTube where he describes his theories and research a bit more fully.

The most interesting part of all of this work is that Dr. Fisher is himself a person who was diagnosed with-- and recovered from-- mental illness. He was a neurochemical researcher when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1970s, and was hospitalized several times. During his recovery, he obtained an M.D., a Ph.D., and also married and fathered two daughters. According to the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, he is one of the only psychiatrists in the country to openly discuss his recovery from mental illness. I can't wait to read more of his work, and look into this further. What amazing implications it has, for so many!

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