Mental illnesses can be crippling and demoralizing. One can find endless advice on maintaining one’s mental health and on recognizing a mental illness, but today I would like to distill the critical factors for mental health recovery into four succinct points. The four most critical factors in mental health recovery are: housing, employment, stabilization of medication and symptom interference, and the development of a social network.
Housing is one of the most basic human needs, regardless of whether one has a mental illness or is considered entirely healthy. When one reviews the statistics, the rate of homeless individuals who suffer from an untreated mental illness is positively alarming. What is even worse is if these individuals cannot afford basic shelter, there is little hope that they are receiving proper medications, meaning a continual downward spiral is about to take place. Obtaining stable housing is likely the most important factor for mental healthcare consumers on the road to recovery.
Now it is time to explore what practitioners and consumers alike can do to obtain housing. For mental health practitioners, one must focus upon finding affordable or government subsidized housing for the mental healthcare consumer, ideally in a situation which removes them from their immediate environment (as it is prone to lead to relapses or continued substance abuses, etc.). Most major cities have government subsidized low-income apartment complexes that you can look into for such consumers. For the mental healthcare receiver, one must recognize that housing is critical to almost every function in life and seeking out housing in a shelter is far better than winding up on the streets. Also, an address will be required to find employment and to receive social security insurance payments if the qualifications for such payments are met, thus making housing crucial to mental health recovery.
Once one finds housing, employment is essential on the road to empowerment and self-sustainability. One point is critical however: do not take on too much too fast. It is OK to re-enter the workforce slowly. Take a part time position, adjust to that, and if you feel you are ready after a month or two, take on a full-time position. This is also a great time to go back to school if you have been looking into that. Anything with a technical skill will put you in much better standing so lean towards that if you can.
With employment comes concern of money management. If an individual with a mental illness cannot responsible manage their money, a family member or treatment center fund should be given control of the individual’s funding. Now this is a very touchy subject so if a mental health consumer is in fact relinquishing control of funding to insure no purchase of illegal substances occurs, one must insure the controlling program is reputable, in good standing, and competently managed.
Medication and symptom stabilization is the third of the four keys to mental health recovery. The proper ratio of medications can take time and does alter one’s chemical and hormonal balances, thus can be a rather painful process, but it is worth the battle. So many breakdowns are due to mental health consumers going off their medications or improper medication balances, which is a travesty considering the avoidability of said occurrences. Take the time to find the right combination, this will allow for stabilization of symptom interference levels, which will then contribute to one’s ability to maintain adequate employment therein ability to afford appropriate housing and independence.
The fourth and final key to mental health recovery is building a strong, proactive social network. Isolation and alienation are very common among those with a mental illness who have experienced a severe psychotic break. One must seek out a supportive network, be it consisting of family, friends, or other individuals on the road to recovery from their own mental illness. The American Clubhouse model for mental healthcare facilities is great for finding an active social network. While some consumers complain that such groups solely sit around and talk, over time this talking will turn into productive, employment oriented endeavors. One must, however, remove themselves from any social network that could contribute to a relapse of the original mental condition.