National Mental Health Awareness Week

What is mental illness?

nami 2A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

Learn more about treatment and services that assist individuals in recovery.


Find out more about a specific mental illness:

Find out more about conditions sometimes related to mental illness:

What does recovery look like?

As people become familiar with their illness, they recognize their own unique patterns of behavior. If individuals recognize these signs and seek effective and timely care, they can often prevent relapses. However, because mental illnesses have no cure, treatment must be continuous.

Individuals who live with a mental illness also benefit tremendously from taking responsibility for their own recovery. Once the illness is adequately managed, one must monitor potential side effects.

The notion of recovery involves a variety of perspectives. Recovery is a holistic process that includes traditional elements of mental health and aspects that extend beyond medication. Recovery from serious mental illness also includes attaining, and maintaining, physical health as another cornerstone of wellness.

The recovery journey is unique for each individual. There are several definitions of recovery; some grounded in medical and clinical values, some grounded in context of community and some in successful living. One of the most important principles is this: recovery is a process, not an event. The uniqueness and individual nature of recovery must be honored. While serious mental illness impacts individuals in many ways, the concept that all individuals can move towards wellness is paramount.

Merely Agog

Mental illness by the numbers

Check out NAMI’s fact sheet, Mental Illness: Facts and Numbers, to find out more about mental illness.

(Thanks to Kitt O’Malley for posting the information from the NAMI website.)

Open Your Hands

handmade greeting card, collage art

Open your hands,

if you want to be held


º º º

My final Support Group meeting last week turned out to be quiet and modest, which is fitting.  It’s been three months since I admitted myself to the partial hospitalization program, and during that transitional time the emphasis has been on doing what it takes every day to manage our varied illnesses.  We marked quiet, diligent effort and tiny steps toward a stronger sense of self all leading to a “graduation day” when we would continue on our own with outside support and services in place.

Most of the people in group last week were brand new, freshly discharged from the Program and hesitant about joining a group in progress.  But that’s the nature of this type of group—people come, people go, and there are lessons to be learned whichever way the door swings.  There were a few there who had been with me for a while in group, and when it came time to pass around the graduation token, they held it and spoke kindly about me and my participation.  The counselor, in particular, spoke about my skills as a peer.  He was quite adamant about me pursuing work as a Peer Support Specialist.  With the nature of mental health services shifting toward peer advocacy, he told me I was needed and gave me a contact at the local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) office.

So, today I sent an introductory email and asked for information.  I know nothing about Peer Advocacy, but I’m willing to find out.  This feels like a huge step after trying and failing at jobs and volunteer work for several years.  I gave up the hope of ever returning to work for my peace of mind.  I felt I needed to accept my limitations and move on from that basic understanding.

But I also know that I have a lot to offer as a peer.  I know how to listen and how to ask questions.  I know how hard it is to do the work every day.  If I can find a place to use those skills, I think I must.

So, I sent the query today, along with my willingness and gratitude, into the ethers.  We’ll see what the Universe sends back.

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