At our previous National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) meeting in Crawfordsville, IN, a couple participants mentioned that the state of Georgia provides a good model for how mental illness should be managed.
In Indiana, we don’t have a well-coordinated system in place to help people with mental illness find their way back into society from prison or homelessness. Georgia has a program called Opening Doors to Recovery that certainly seems to be what we should be striving for.
Here’s a YouTube video about the Opening Doors to Recovery program. Please watch it and post a comment to share your thoughts. Also, share any insights or information you have about similar programs in your state.
(If you can’t watch the video embedded on this page, view it on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2NJEL2WfCU.)
Candida and I also host Bipolar-Story.com, where people share their stories of living with bipolar disorder. Visitors can post comments on each story. Recently, Maddie posted her comeback story, sharing her experience of living with Bipolar II in college, being diagnosed, and successfully returning to her studies.
Maddie’s tale is very inspirational and well-written. Definitely recommended reading for any college students who suffer melt-downs, which unfortunately is all too common. We encourage you to read Maddie’s story, “I Am Who I Am.”
College woman photo available from Shutterstock
Researchers in Denmark have discovered that treatment in specialized mood disorder clinics following a hospitalization significantly reduce hospital readmission rates.
In their study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry and titled “Treatment in a specialised out-patient mood disorder clinic v. standard out-patient treatment in the early course of bipolar disorder: randomised clinical trial,” Lars Vedel Kessing et al. followed 158 patients who were discharged from their first, second, or third hospital admission with a single manic episode or bipolar disorder.
Last Thursday, my wife and I attended a viewing of Dr. Delaney Ruston’s documentary film Unlisted followed by a panel discussion. The film and panel discussion focused primarily on schizophrenia, but individuals with bipolar disorder and their families face similar struggles.
I was very impressed by the keynote speaker, Dr. Alan Breier, MD, who passionately and compassionately described the struggles of people living with schizophrenia. He called schizophrenia the “quintessential human experience,” because it affects the two qualities most responsible for making a person feel human:
- The ability to work
- The ability to love
I always thought of recovery from bipolar disorder as a return to the BB (before bipolar) era, but as Class 10 of NAMI’s Family-to-Family course points out, recovery doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the “good old days.” It’s often healthier to look at recovery as moving forward – a process of transformation, of becoming a new you, accepting your new reality, embracing fresh dreams, and drawing up new plans. This seems to be true both for the person with bipolar disorder and his or her loved ones.
Many people who experience a serious mood episode with psychosis often have cognitive impairments that continue long after they recover from the mood episode. The actual percentages vary from study to study, but approximately 50% of those with mania and 15% of those with major depression experience mood episodes with psychotic features, so recovery from cognitive impairment is a serious concern for those with bipolar disorder.
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry entitled “Two-Year Syndromal and Functional Recovery in 219 Cases of First-Episode Major Affective Disorder With Psychotic Features,” found that while most patients recovered from symptoms soon after hospitalization, only about one third with psychotic affective disorders recovered functionality by 24 months.
Medication is effective in treating acute bipolar mood episodes. Medication and psychoeducation are both effective in reducing recurrences in euthymic periods (when symptoms are not present). Unfortunately, neither treatment option has much effect on restoring cognitive facilities or one’s ability to function as they did prior to the episode. But there may be hope on the horizon.
People often have a different idea of what “recovery” means in relation to bipolar disorder.
Some think of it as no longer needing to take medication or see a doctor or therapist. Others may think of it as regaining control of their lives with medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and/or other approaches. Some people don’t view bipolar as an illness (they may even view it as a gift) and seek lifestyle changes as a way of accommodating their extreme highs and lows.
What does “recovery” mean to you?