Mental illness is rife throughout the globe, as millions of people struggle with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other difficult conditions. Yet, despite how common it is, mental illness is not commonly understood. Mental illnesses are health conditions that affect a person’s mood, behavior, and thought patterns. They are chronic conditions that disrupt one’s day-to-day life, but they are both treatable and manageable, with the right support.
What is Recovery from Mental Illness?
When we say that mental illness is treatable, we mean that recovery is possible for those struggling. Recovery is the process in which individuals improve their health and wellness and strive to reach their fullest potential, while also learning how to minimize the symptoms associated with a mental health disorder. Recovery from mental illness means that a person has learned how to overcome and manage their symptoms, and in turn, build a safe, purposeful, and productive life despite their disorder.
Recovery does not mean that a person is “cured” from their mental illness. It does, however, mean that they live a meaningful and fulfilling life. A mental illness does not define a person, and recovery enables them to build a life they love. For many people, this means finding new and improved ways to live their life (rather than going back to a previous state of being).
An Evolving View of Recovery from Mental Illness
Historically, health practitioners believed that mental illness could not be treated. In fact, until the 1970s, many people believed that if you had a mental health disorder, you were doomed to struggle with those symptoms for your entire life. Decades ago, individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions were sent to mental wards and kept in isolation, without being granted access to the treatment and support they deserved. As such, many people struggled in silence because they were scared to ask for help.
This is vastly different from how we perceive mental illness recovery today. Nowadays, we know that recovery is entirely possible. Mental illness is a condition that affects the brain, but it does not prevent a person from living out their life fully. Recovery from mental illness is all about finding coping mechanisms to manage symptoms, and discovering ways to build meaning and autonomy in one’s life, despite the challenges.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that nearly 2 out of 3 people (65%) achieve recovery from serious mental illnesses. The journey of recovery looks different for everyone, but everyone has a chance at healing, despite their illness.
Other research supports the possibility of recovery from mental illness, as well. According to a new study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, many people who have suffered from mental illness are able to thrive and lead a high-functioning life. Specifically, about two-thirds (67%) were able to successfully overcome their symptoms, no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria for mental illness. About 10% exceeded this and were deemed to be “thriving” in their recovery, reporting an excellent state of well-being after struggling with a mental health condition.
This is all to say that recovery is entirely possible. You can overcome symptoms of recovery, and you can achieve high satisfaction and personal welfare after battling a mental illness.
Of course, the recovery journey is not always easy or straightforward. There are times when symptoms might return, or triggers might disrupt one’s progress in recovery. This is normal and okay! Recovery is all about building the tools to be able to cope with those disruptions and to continue living a fulfilling life.
If you or your loved one is struggling with a mental health condition, there are basic strategies you can implement to manage the illness and reach a state of recovery. Read on to learn more.
The Key Elements of Recovery from Mental Illness
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the cornerstones of recovery are:
- Engagement with family and friends
- Satisfying work
In order to recover from mental illness, a person should be motivated to do so, having hope in the possibility of recovery. They should have support from their loved ones, as well as from experienced mental health practitioners, to overcome the daily challenges associated with mental health recovery. Work (or school) can also play an important role in providing individuals with meaning, purpose, and productivity in one’s life.
7 Tips for Those Recovering from Mental Illness
With the above foundations in mind, you can achieve a successful recovery from mental illness by:
- Establishing a sense of hope.
Being optimistic and maintaining hope can be vital in the recovery process. This can give you the strength you need to overcome difficult symptoms and other barriers or obstacles that life throws at you. Hope does not need to come from you alone, however; hope can also come from those around you. Encouragement from family and friends, for example, can help build a foundation for hope.
- Setting goals and working towards them.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), self-direction and self-determination are key elements of the recovery process. These experts encourage individuals to define their goals early in the recovery process, and to create a path working towards those goals. Setting goals allows you to take charge of your recovery, and make healthy choices along the way. This leads to increased motivation, direction, independence, and autonomy in the recovery process.
- Seeking professional treatment.
Professional treatment can be monumental for those in recovery, and finding the right treatment is an important step. The mental health treatment center (or practitioner) that you choose should be reputable, experienced, and evidence-based. Moreover, it should be a place that you trust; one in which you feel safe and supported. Look for a treatment program that will create a unique treatment plan for you and your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, and it’s important to find a professional or program that takes into consideration all of your mental, emotional, behavioral, social, and physical needs (to name a few).
- Connecting with family, friends, and your community.
Relationships are pivotal to the recovery experience, so be sure to connect with family and friends who you feel encourage and support you. This can help to prevent loneliness and isolation, as well as offer you hope, guidance, and friendship when you need it most. In addition to connecting with those around you, consider looking for resources in your community. Your treatment program may be able to connect you with other helpful support groups or individuals in recovery, for example.
- Finding meaningful activities and commitments.
When struggling with a mental illness, it can be difficult to find motivation or inspiration in your day-to-day. It’s not uncommon to experience feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, either. For these reasons, we recommend finding activities or obligations that will put more meaning back into your life – activities that will inspire you to get out of bed, or to keep building this incredible life. By establishing a career, graduating college, completing volunteer work, taking care of a family, or even fulfilling hobbies at home, you can find great purpose.
- Settling in an environment where you feel safe.
SAMHSA experts agree that a safe home environment is one of the most important pillars of recovery. Ensure that you have a stable environment where you feel safe, secure, and comfortable. Ask yourself if you feel you are supported in your current home environment, and if you have the tools you need for a successful recovery.
- Taking control of your health.
At the end of the day, mental health and physical health are closely connected. Be sure to take care of yourself and make healthy choices that will support your overall well-being. For example, you may consider starting an exercise routine, as fitness can have positive effects on the mind. You may also practice meditation and mindfulness, or establish a plan for nutritious eating. Most importantly, be sure you are getting enough sleep. Good sleep patterns can significantly reduce mental health symptoms, and according to multiple studies, poor sleep can exacerbate mental illnesses.
Recovery is Possible for You
Many people beg the question, “Is recovery from mental illness possible?” and the answer is a resounding “yes.” While the symptoms of mental illness can be challenging for an individual, recovery is achievable with the right steps taken. By building a support network of family, friends, and treatment professionals, ensuring a foundation of safe living and good health, and by maintaining hope and motivation, you can build a life you love.
For more information about recovery from mental illness, do not hesitate to reach out to Turnbridge. Turnbridge is a leading recovery center helping young men and women overcome mental illness and substance use disorders. Call us at 877-581-1793 to learn about our programs.