First step: Stop looking at the person as mentally ill

Discover and Recover: Resources for Mental and Overall Wellness is a excellent “go to” place for people wanting further information on alternative therapies and empowering their own recovery. I’m reprinting a recent comment(s) to another of my posts from its founder, Duane Sherry.

Discover and Recover Jan 27, 2012 02:32 PM


I’ve been taking an online course through the University of North Texas, WISE Program -Workplace Inclusion and Sustainable Employment – UNT was the largest rehabilitation counseling program in the world until very recently… It is no longer the largest, but still has a sizeable graduate degree program.

Last night, I read a great article – ‘Strategies for Healthy Relationships and Mental Wellness’ by George Nostrand.

I wanted to share with you and your readers some of what the article was about…
He describes “mental illness” in a refreshing way:

“The first step in working with someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness is to stop looking at the person as ‘mentally ill.’ Everyone struggles at some point with varying degrees of mental illness. We all feel depressed, anxious, paranoid, and angry. In addition to dealing with a host of other emotions, our thinking also becomes confused, we get lost in our thoughts, and we just plain have days when our brains doen’t want to function.”

“As a result, mental illness is normal. A person becomes mentally ill when normal thoughts and emotions go beyond a point of ‘comfortability’ and self-management. In these instances, thoughts and emotions cause extreme disruptions in people’s lives. When it comes to work, these interruptions to healthy functioning can lead to embarrassing situations, sporadic work history, and take a serious toll on people’s self-esteem.”

He also has some good things to say about the therapeutic value of work:

“Work plays a crucial role in recovering from these periods of disruption. Nothing: not medications, therapy, or any other element of treatment, can provide the wide-ranging and crucial elements of recovey that work can. It is the only way for people to regain their independence and reintegrate into their respective communities. This is why it is so important that vocationial services be provided in a way that is empowering to the individual.”

My thoughts:

The article by George Nostrand, Strategies for Healthy Relationships and Mental Wellness will be read by people around the world, through the UNT WISE online program. I find it encouraging that so many people will be reading his words about “mental illness”… Hopefully, professionals will begin to think of “mental illness” in a new light.

I have long-thought that the paradigm shift that is needed to transform the mental health system will likely come through self-directed programs and those that offer peer support. I won’t hold my breath waiting for psychiatry to promote the concept of recovery… and psychology seems to be slow out of the gate as well. 

But I do think rehabilitation programs such as the one at the University of North Texas offer some hope, along with those at Boston University and Temple University.
We have a long way to go, but at least it’s a start:

Boston University – Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation – Repository of Recovery Resources:
Temple University – Collaborative on Community Reintegration (Rehabilitation and Research Center:

Be well,

Try “not” living with mental illness

Here is an extract from the latest NAMI e-mail on pervasive unemployment amongst the mentally ill. NAMI’s statistics reveal that 80% of people living with a mental illness are unemployed.


While successful approaches such as supported employment have been around for nearly two decades, the staggering unemployment rate for adults living with mental illness remains a national disgrace. Integrated employment remains a key element of recovery despite substantial evidence on what is effective in helping individuals get and keep a job is unavailable in many parts of the country.

NAMI will present a symposium on July 8 featuring nationally recognized experts on supported employment and innovative agencies that have successfully placed people living with mental illness in jobs and continue to assist them keep those jobs. Speaking at this important session is Tony Zipple, the executive director of Thresholds. As a leader and innovator in rehabilitation, Thresholds has served as a model for other agencies. Hundreds of agencies and others in the United States and abroad have adopted parts of the Thresholds program.

Joining Dr. Zipple are Deborah Becker and Dr. Robert Drake, co-directors of the Dartmouth IPS Supported Employment Center. Individual Placement and Support (IPS) supported employment is an evidence-based practice that assists people living with severe mental illness in returning to return to work. Compared to other vocational approaches, people who utilize IPS are almost three times more likely to find a regular job in the community than people who participate in other types of employment programs.

If you’re unable to join us in Chicago, don’t worry! We will feature comprehensive daily updates from the convention on as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
You have to be in good mental shape to be a candidate for the competitive job market and to hold down a job. If a patient is not able to work in a competitive job market, they are not sufficiently recovered/reconstructed/constructed. (See comments to earlier post.) If the statistics are as dismal as NAMI claims, one must ask, why aren’t these people in good enough shape to seek employment? For many of us, our first instinct is to say “it’s the drugs that stop people from working!” To me, the answer may be found by challenging the prevailing view of “severe mental illness” as mainly a medical problem. Assistance has been directed towards seeing the person as a patient/consumer of services rather than an individual with a unique story. Being an adult “living with mental illness” (today’s version of what recovery means) obviously isn’t helping people earn a paycheque.