About Mental Illness

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, you may be facing challenges and upheaval in your life. But you can learn to manage mental illness and lead a productive and fulfilling life. What can you do?
 

Be an informed consumer! 
Learn about your diagnosis, medications, treatment options and support groups. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor, psychiatrist, therapist or counselor questions. Good resources on the Internet include:

The National Institute of Mental Health
Mission:to reduce the burden of mental and behavioral disorders through research on mind,      brain, and behavior.”

  • Provides information on Anxiety Disorders, ADD, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Eating Disorders, Schizophrenia and more.

Drugs.com
Mission:to be the Internets most trusted resource for drug and related health information.”

 

  • Non pharmaceutical sponsored site providing objective information on the purpose of the drug and potential side-effects.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mission:dedicated to the eradication of mental illness and to the improvement of the quality of life of all whose lives are affected by these diseases.”

  • Grassroots organization with local communities across the country.
  • Provides information on mental illnesses, medications, research, public policy. Provides information in Spanish.
  • Excellent peer-to-peer groups and consumer groups where you can find support, whether you are afflicted by the mental illness or related to    someone who is.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Mission:dedicated to the eradication of mental illness and to the improvement of the quality of life of all whose lives are affected by these diseases.”

  • Find local support groups.
  • Provides information on mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder) and anxiety.
     

Medications
You may need medication to stabilize your condition. Many people have conflicting feelings about taking medications. For some, it is such a lifesaver (literally!) that taking medications for their mental condition is no more an issue than taking insulin would be for a diabetic.  For others, the frustration of trying different medications in order to find the right one is almost overwhelming. Work with your psychiatrist or doctor if you are having problems with side-effects. DO NOT STOP TAKING MEDICATIONS WITHOUT TELLING YOUR DOCTOR. Many medications take time to start working, and others have nasty side-effects if you stop them suddenly.
If you are having trouble with the thought of taking medications, are upset or angry about the “unfairness” of having a mental illness, or are ambivalent about being med-compliant, you are not alone. Talk to a therapist to work through this major change in your life.

 

Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Some people with mental illnesses “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol. While this may seem to work for a while, the negative consequences usually begin to greatly outweigh the benefits at some point. Prisons and probation offices are filled with “dually-diagnosed” people: people with a mental illness who are also substance dependent. If you are having drug or alcohol problems, get help! There IS a way out.

 

Caregivers, Family and Friends
Watching a loved one suffer through the sometimes debilitating effects of a major mental illness is emotionally and physically exhausting at times. Moods change suddenly, finances can take a major hit, relationships are tested. What can you do if you find yourself in a supportive role to someone with a major mental illness?

Take care of yourself. You cannot give away what you do not have. If you are exhausted and depleted, you will do no one else any good. Find ways to build support networks so you can take much-needed breaks. Find emotional outlets through support groups such as: NAMI family groups, Families Anonymous, Alanon and individual or group counseling.
 

Educate yourself. Just as the person diagnosed with the mental illness needs to be an educated consumer, you need to be an educated caregiver.

Develop a Crisis Management Strategy. With proper treatment, most people challenged with mental illness are stable and productive. However, if your friend or family member becomes unstable for some reason (not taking his medications, or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol), it’s good to have  a crisis management strategy. If someone is threatening to kill himself or to hurt another person, call 911. Learn about psychiatric hospital options, outpatient services, gaining power of attorney and buffering access to family finances before a crisis happens. Preferably, discuss this with the person as part of their relapse prevention strategy.
 

Books
There are many excellent books available. Some books on related topics that clients have recommended include:

 

ADD, ADHD
Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You To See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD, by Daniel G. Amen

 

Anorexia
Anatomy of Anorexia, by Steven Levenkron

 

Bipolar Disorder
An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison
Parenting a Bipolar Child: What to Do & Why, by Gianni L. Faedda, MD and Nancy B. Austing, PsyD

 

Borderline Personality Disorder
Stop Walking on Eggshells: Take Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder, by Paul T. Mason

and Randi Kreger
 

Cutting
Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation, by Steven Levenkron

 

Suicide
Night Falls Fast, by Kay Redfield Jamison

 

 

 

By Patti Villalobos