I love lazily copying and pasting content I’ve written elsewhere and repurposing it as a blog post. Once again, I post my answers to Marya Hornbacher‘s follow-up survey questions about whether I see mental illness as a physical disease:
- Do you consider mental illness a chronic physical disease? Please explain your response.
It depends on the diagnosis. Some mental illness is situational and can be overcome - for example, grief resulting in an episode of major depression or trauma resulting in PTSD. Other mental illness is more biologically based, for example bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I have bipolar disorder and consider it a chronic physical disease which I must manage and treat with medication, supportive psychotherapy as needed, healthy lifestyle choices, and family support. The choices I make daily affect my mental health and stability. I am easily triggered into a mood swing.
- Do you think the lives of people with mental illness can be substantially improved with sufficient resources over time? If so, what would that improvement require? If not, why not?
Yes. Proper treatment can result in higher functioning. Improvement requires proper medical treatment, psychotherapy, peer support, family support, and community support.
- Do you think the current boom of research into the brain will result in better treatments for psychiatric disorders? Why or why not?
I hope so. I believe in advancing medical knowledge. There is a growing body of research indicating a brain/gut connection, as well. Our physical and psychiatric health is intertwined.
- Have you heard of the recovery movement? If so, what do you know about it?
Yes. I have participated in NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Peer to Peer course which promotes a recovery model. Recovery does not mean cure, nor does it mean that those of us who live with serious mental illness experience linear positive improvement in symptoms or functioning. Recovery can be cyclical. We can and do experience setbacks. The key is that there is hope.
- Do you think there is a need for more public attention to mental illness? If not, why not? If so, what do you think still needs to be addressed?
Yes, especially for those most sick. Although I do like challenging people's assumptions and biases regarding mental illness, the fact remains that those of us who are sickest - those of us whose illness results in poverty, joblessness, homelessness or incarceration - are at greatest risk. Unlike the most needy populations, I have family support and a higher level of functioning. Still, if I wasn't married, my life circumstances would be far different. I would be living on disability income only, which would put me and my son at or near the poverty level. Those of us whose mental illness results in poverty, homelessness, and incarceration need the most resources. That is where we should be spending our money. Incarcerating people with mental illness is extremely expensive, and not the proper way to treat mental illness. If we spent money preventing the most costly effects of mental illness, we would be addressing the greatest needs.