At some point, most of us will suffer from stress, anxiety and/or depression. These often come with changes in ones life; i.e., moving, childbirth, a new job; or from financial troubles, the loss of a job, friend or family member. This may be how mental illness starts out, but with proper treatment and/or medication, life returns to happy contentment again for most.
For others the symptoms are worse and mental health can be a life-debilitating event. The severity of the illness can affect not only the people themselves but their family, their ability to work or go to school, their finances, and the ability to function as they once had.
The good news is that we are on the cutting edge of change.
Today, we do recover and lead lives that are often more satisfying than prior to the diagnosis. With many new medications, evidence based treatments, therapy, and the hope and belief in recovery by those who serve the people with mental illness, people can and do recover.
I know this as I am in recovery and moving beyond. What is recovery? That depends on with whom you speak; recovery is unique to all.
For me, recovery is seeing my life clearly; having hope through the many trials and problems life puts on my plate; seeing a future that I can work toward filled with goals and dreams; and always having the necessities in life, including food, shelter, transportation, health, and relationships. Recovery can be challenging, but those of us who walk this path find a resilience we never knew existed.
The national consensus statement on recovery defines it as: a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful life in a community of his or her choice while striving to achieve his or her full potential.
The Presidents Freedom Commission on Mental Health reiterates these principles and stresses that recovery is to be expected. The Governors Mental Health Commission emphasizes recovery as well.
Michigan is in the midst of transforming the public mental health system to one that is recovery based. Closer to home, Northern Lakes Community Mental Health is working to this end also. New grants for family psychosocial education, recovery, anti-stigma, and other initiatives aid in this change. The funds are used to assist individuals with mental illness to recover through various means such as: speakers panels, community inclusion activities, the arts, and job skills.
Peer specialists across the state are being hired, trained, tested and certified to work with peers, to instill hope and share their stories. (Yes, weve been there!) They provide a service to other consumers, assisting and encouraging them in their recovery journey.
Let us remember that mental illness is real, common and treatable; and recovery is not only possible, but to be expected. There is hope!
Leslie Sladek is employed as a customer service representative at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. She is one of the first peer specialists in Michigan to receive certification to serve as mentors to others. She serves on the Michigan Recovery Council and the state board of directors for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.