David Susman, Ph.D.

The Recovery Coach

How We Think About Mental Illness: Time for Plan B

The time is right for a more positive view of hope and recovery.

Posted Sep 30, 2018

Depending on who you talk to, there are dramatically different views of mental illness. One scenario which captures the unpleasant reality many have experienced looks something like this:

Plan A: 

Many people with a mental illness:

  • Have never been diagnosed.
  • Have received a diagnosis but have a lack of insight or deny it.
  • Are afraid to talk about it.
  • Are ashamed to disclose it.
  • Never seek treatment for it.
  • Are ridiculed and ostracized because of it.
  • Want treatment but none is available.
  • Have the wrong diagnosis.
  • Receive ineffective treatment.
  • Feel hopeless because they can’t manage it
  • Don’t believe recovery is possible.
  • Are trapped in despair.
  • Die prematurely due to lack of appropriate health care or by suicide.

Conversely, there is a very different view of mental illness which paints a much more positive picture of hope and recovery:

Source: Violka08/CanStockPhoto

Plan B: 

Many people with a mental illness:

  • Learn they have a treatable illness.
  • Acknowledge they have it.
  • Talk openly about it with no fear or shame.
  • Want to learn more about it.
  • Readily seek treatment for it.
  • Find help & support is available to treat it.
  • Find caring professionals who want to help them.
  • Have an accurate diagnosis.
  • Engage in effective treatment.
  • Feel hopeful about effectively managing it.
  • Believe recovery is possible.
  • Realize they are a person and not just an illness.
  • Reclaim their lives and experience peace of mind and fulfillment.

Most would agree that Plan A has been far too common in the past and that it’s definitely time for Plan B. The question then becomes how to make Plan B our collective vision for the future. Notable efforts are already underway to achieve this goal, including adoption of the recovery model, efforts to expand access to mental health services, increased attention to suicide prevention, and incredible work by mental health advocates around the world.

Perhaps we are nearing a tipping point in how we think about mental illness where we can say once and for all that Plan A is in the past and Plan B is here to stay.

Copyright David Susman 2018

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