Changing The Dialogue: 7 Messages About Mental Illness And Disability


Many of us know Eleanor Longden from her 2013 TED Talk, The voices in my head. She is an intelligent, thoughtful young woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age and overcame many obstacles to finish her master's degree in psychology. She now devotes her time to research and advocacy in the field.

In 2015, Eleanor Longden and Mike Slade published a research article titled Empirical evidence about recovery and mental health.

The article proposes that, "...Two discourses exist in mental health research and practice.

The first focuses on the limitations associated with disability arising from mental disorder.

The second focuses on the possibilities for living well with mental health problems."

The full article is a fascinating read, and I recommend it if you have the time. But if your time is short today, then at the very least ponder this:

Longden and Slade found that a very dominant and negative dialogue exists around mental illness. That dialogue can be summed up in the follow seven messages.

Seven Messages Focused On Limitations In Mental Health

  1. Recovery is best judged by experts or using standardized assessment;

  2. Few people with mental health problems recover;

  3. If a person no longer meets criteria for a mental illness, they are in remission;

  4. Diagnosis is a robust basis for characterizing groups and predicting need;

  5. Treatment and other supports are important factors for improving outcome;

  6. The barriers to receiving effective treatment are availability, financing and client awareness;

  7. And the impact of mental illness, in particular schizophrenia, is entirely negative.

Longden and Slade go on to propose seven alternative, and more person-centered messages that empower the person experiencing the illness.

Seven Messages Focused On Possibilities In Mental Health

  1. Recovery is best judged by the person living with the experience;

  2. Many people with mental health problems recover;

  3. If a person no longer meets criteria for a mental illness, they are not ill;

  4. Diagnosis is not a robust foundation;

  5. Treatment is one route among many to recovery;

  6. Some people choose not to use mental health services;

  7. And the impact of mental health problems is mixed.

Longden and Slade conclude, "We believe that the dominant discourse within mental health is one of limitations, in which clinical and research skills are more oriented towards identifying for example disabilities than strengths, risk factors than protective factors, vulnerability than resilience, and threats than opportunities. Such a discourse is more likely to produce pessimistic results."

Have you or a loved one ever experienced the result of this negative dialogue? Have you ever been successful in advocating for a different mindset? If you have a story to share around how you have changed the dialogue around mental illness, please let us know via email or share in the comments. We know there are as many success stories out there as there are negative experiences. Let's bring both to light so we can move the conversation forward.

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Our goal at Virgil Stucker and Associates is to strengthen individual and family capacities to achieve and sustain higher levels of functioning and fulfillment in the face of complex mental health issues. As we all know, there are no simple answers and multiple concerns and approaches need to be reviewed and understood. We hope that this blog gives families additional insights and encourages further dialogue about how we view, talk about, and react to mental illness in our selves, families, and social networks.

#behaviorchange #dialogue #research #empowerment #powerandoppression #mentalhealthsystem

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Disclaimer: As a therapeutic consultant, Virgil advises, advocates, recommends, facilitates and empowers, but he does not treat mental illness or addiction. While offering 30+ years of mental health experience, he is not a licensed mental health professional, but will often refer clients to professionals and programs for treatment. 

 

Note: Virgil has no financial relationship with any of these programs, except for Houston Methodist Hospital and McLean Hospital for whom he has been a consultant. Any consultation he gives is for educational, informational and motivational purposes only and is not meant to replace professional psychiatric, psychological, programmatic, legal or financial advice the client may need for him or herself or their family member from a licensed professional. 

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