from the archives
For many a mental health diagnosis is something akin to a death sentence. Life as they know it or they hope for it to be is gone, never to be found again. They are wrong.
A recent study showed how badly the public viewed mental illness.
- 1 in 4 said the mentally ill were dangerous.
- 1 in 5 thought that the mentally ill should not have children.
- 1 in 4 thought they could never live a normal life.
- 1 in 2 thought that no one would ever vote for them to hold public office.
- 1 in 2 thought they were incapable of ever holding any position of authority.
I heard someone today describe their first response to being told they were bipolar. “Death . I thought life was over. I would never be able to work again. I would have to go on disability. I could never have a child….”
Many people I know struggle each and every day to have a “normal” day. Many of them are close to giving up hope for even that. Others have made progress and seem well on their way to recovery. How real is hope? Do we just have to settle for a life of less and less.
I heard of a study today with eye opening results. They took roughly 290 patients that had been on the back wards of Vermont and about the same amount from Maine back in the 1950′s. These were the lowest functioning patients with the most severe illnesses with the least promise and fewest hopes. If the popular stereotypes were even remotely true these were the people who simply could never make it in life.
30 years later they asked them a simple question. “Who was in recovery?’ Their definition of recovery was very strict. By it , most people today are not in recovery. Their criteria for recovery were:
- No symptoms of their illness
- Not taking meds.
- Maintaining long term relationships with people
- Showing personal responsibility in daily life
A lot to live up to wouldnt you say. Yet with these criteria this people that conventional wisdom says had no chance about 66% were in recovery. I just find that simply amazing.
Equally amazing was what they didnt find out. When they tried to control for all the variables to find out which ones correlated with recovery their answer was unexpected. None did. They did not know why 66% made it into recovery. For all intents and purposes, it was an individual thing.
The message I take from this is simple. Anyone can make it. And it doesnt matter necessarily how bad things are. Life can go in the direction of better. You do not have to throw in the cards and say, “This is the most I can hope for.” It is not.
Hope really does work. Grab hold for yourself.