Recovery from Mental Illness, The Journey is real

The Recovery House (TRH) has been in Karachi for 13 years, serving people who have severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality, etc.). We offer Psychiatric Rehabilitation services to individuals dealing with various psychiatric issues and helped them improve their functionality in the community.  

This journey of recovery was shared in one of our seminars held last Sunday. In case you were not there, we have for you some takeaway points from the day. We don’t want you to miss out on a service that might help a loved one, a friend or a coworker.

  • Not an Either-Or thing

Psychiatric Rehabilitation, its concept and practices are all relatively new to Pakistan. And just like any novel approach, Psych Rehab (sounds more appealing this way, no?) is also misperceived in a lot of ways. One of these misperceptions is that it is just another alternative to the mental health services (psychiatrist, psychologist etc.) already available in the country. Dr. Carey says, it’s not. Who is Dr. Carey and why should we listen to her?

Dr. Carey is the Chair, Academy of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Recovery, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, USA.  According to her, Psych Rehab does not circumvent treatment, it works alongside it. While treatment in clinical settings allows for managing symptoms, rehab is carried out with the individual to help him/her regain skills to be functional again and play valued social roles in the community. And why is rehab required? Because severe mental illnesses have a wide-ranging impact on an individual’s performance in all domains of life – daily living, learning, socializing and working.

  • It’s a Process, it takes time

How long will it take for my brother to get better? When can I go back to work?  When will my wife be able to take care of our family?

These are the common questions asked by our clients and their loved ones. So what is the correct answer – we don’t know since Psych Rehab is not an instantaneous remedy – it’s a process, and it takes time. Moreover, it’s not the same for all clients. Depending upon the time lapse between someone’s onset of illness, their symptoms, and their decision to approach Rehab service, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years or more. The mantra is: the sooner you address it, the sooner you recover.

  • We work with strengths, not walking deficits

Our clients are more than their mental illness. In Psych Rehab, we focus not on what’s lost or missing, but what remains. The illness may have robbed them off of their job, friends or skills, but their capacity to gain these back and their hope to recover stays with them. We start with one (or two) specific goal(s) at a time, building gradually a strong foundation of skills within a person and then move on to resources and supports in the environment. And here is where our next takeaway point comes in.

  • It’s not an individual challenge, but a social one

For us to stay up and about, every day, each week, all year, we need not just internal strength but external supports. Motivation alone or knowing how to drive will not be enough to get us to work. We need resources such as an alarm clock to wake us up, kitchen utensils to prepare and eat breakfast and a car to actually drive in to office. Also, having someone to eat breakfast with, to come back home to and share the happenings of the day are equally important to keep the motivation flowing day in and day out.

People with mental illness usually become targets of stigma and are labeled as incapable or weak by those around them, in family, among friends and colleagues. But then, none of us can keep going and thriving without having loved ones cheering for us, standing by us, supporting us…can we???

  • You’re not alone

In the end, let’s remember that individuals may differ in their experience of mental illness, but, it’s not that they are alone in this. Thousands of people across the globe recover, and live a satisfied, successful lives, and so can our own loved one.

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