Recovery Is More Than a Hope May 7, 2019

Did you know that mental illness is responsible for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses including cancer and heart disease?

While 1 in 5 Americans experiences some type of mental illness, innovations in medicine and therapy have made recovery a reality for many, according to Dr. Donald Christman, FBH's Chief Medical Officer.

For instance, more than 80 percent of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning medication and therapy.

"The variety of medications at our disposal has increased and we continue to learn more about psychiatric pathology," Christman says. "Psychiatry is one of the frontiers of medicine because there is still so much progress to make. But help is out there and there are so many options for treatment today."

"Having a mental illness is a big part of a person's life, but it shouldn't be the only thing you see," says Esa Lariviere, FBH Director of Community Support Services. "We recognize that people have goals that are above and beyond treatment. No one wakes up and says, 'My goal in life is to take my medications."

The belief that recovery from mental illness is possible reflects a profound shift in the way mental health professionals think about and practice behavioral healthcare, and it is central to all of the services and programs FBH provides. The Recovery Model is a holistic approach to treatment that focuses on the person, not just their symptoms. Today, clinicians assist individuals in removing the barriers that get in the way of their life goals.

Christman says the recovery model is a useful way to look at mental illness as analogous to other long-term conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

"In medicine there are some conditions which will resolve completely, like a common cold or a simple fracture, and others that may persist, like high cholesterol. Within the discipline of psychiatry, there are some disorders that may resolve completely like an adjustment disorder or a brief psychotic disorder, and others that will likely persist, as in schizophrenia.

But even in the case of serious mental health disorders such as schizophrenia there is room for independence, meaningful personal relationships and quality of life.

"Recovery is about staying in control of your own life and taking care of yourself for those around you," says Christman. "It's no different than someone with a medical condition making choices about their healthcare."

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