How We Think About Mental Illness – Time for Plan B

Depending on who you talk to, there are dramatically different views of mental illness. One scenario which captures the unpleasant reality many have experienced looks something like this:

Plan A – Many people with a mental illness:

  1. Have never been diagnosed
  2. Have received a diagnosis but have a lack of insight or deny it
  3. Are afraid to talk about it
  4. Are ashamed to disclose it
  5. Never seek treatment for it
  6. Are ridiculed and ostracized because of it
  7. Want treatment but none is available
  8. Have the wrong diagnosis
  9. Receive ineffective treatment
  10. Feel hopeless because they can’t manage it
  11. Don’t believe recovery is possible
  12. Are trapped in despair
  13. Die prematurely due to lack of appropriate health care or by suicide


Conversely, there is a very different view of mental illness which paints a much more positive picture of hope and recovery:

Plan B – Many people with a mental illness:

  1. Learn they have a treatable illness
  2. Acknowledge they have it
  3. Talk openly about it with no fear or shame
  4. Want to learn more about it
  5. Readily seek treatment for it
  6. Find help & support is available to treat it
  7. Find caring professionals who want to help them
  8. Have an accurate diagnosis
  9. Engage in effective treatment
  10. Feel hopeful about effectively managing it
  11. Believe recovery is possible
  12. Realize they are a person and not just a illness
  13. Reclaim their lives and experience peace of mind and fulfillment

Most would agree that Plan A has been far too common in the past and that it’s definitely time for Plan B. The question then becomes how to make Plan B our collective vision for the future. Notable efforts are already underway to achieve this goal including adoption of the recovery model, expanded mental health insurance benefits, increased attention to suicide prevention, and incredible work by mental health advocates around the world.

Perhaps we are nearing a tipping point in how we think about mental illness where we can say once and for all that Plan A is in the past and Plan B is here to stay.

So, here’s a question: What steps are needed to make Plan B for mental illness a reality? Please leave a comment. Also please consider subscribing to my blog to have future posts delivered to you automatically. Also please consider subscribing to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

  • Don Rogers

    I think the most important step is to continue to convince one provider at a time that responsible and effective services begin with inclusion of the service recipient’s voice in determining what recovery means to them, then include a feedback process throughout treatment to ensure that services are resulting in the individual’s movement toward recovery rather than languishing in the darkness of Plan A. All too often treatment providers have pushed those they serve toward their own notion of what a “healthy” and “well adjusted” life should look like for everyone rather than following the values and desires of the consumer, which takes us right back to Plan A. Thankfully, there has already been a great movement away from Plan A, but there is more work to be done.

    Thanks for this blog and your committment to recovery.

  • RecoveryPatience

    I am fortunate enough to be living in Plan B right now. What made it happen for me was seeing another person in Plan B. It is horrible, how I lived with mental illness for over 15 years before I met a person who knew about Plan B. This woman was an inspiration to me. I met her when I was hospitalized in Dec. 2012. She did a presentation through NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” program. The second time she came, I talked to her and told her I was inspired by her story. She has stayed out of the hospital, takes Clozapine like I do, and has lost over 100 lbs. We exchanged numbers, and we have been in touch ever since. We have had many conversations where I would ask her, “How did you do it?” “How did you lose the weight?” And she would tell me! “Take a weight management class at your hospital.” “Write down the calories of everything you eat.” And so on.

    These days, I work as a peer specialist. I have achieved recovery. I have achieved Plan B. And I know that the only way widespread knowledge of Plan B will happen is if I share it with others. Now, this is my life’s work.

  • Don, I agree completely that mental health providers have to keep the person who is in recovery at the forefront of the therapeutic process and make sure their goals, dreams, and hopes are always in sight. Knowing you as I do, I know you are totally on board with Plan B in how you carry out your caring and compassionate work. Thanks for all you do.

  • Thank you so much for the important work you are doing as a peer specialist. I’m so glad to hear that you are now living in Plan B and have achieved recovery! I have seen many people whose lives have been transformed by their contact with NAMI and other peer support services. We need to keep spreading the word about these wonderful services. Thanks again for your advocacy.

  • annaaurora

    I live in both Plan A and Plan B – Part of why I do so is that I’m not sure how well I want to be. I told my therapist this when I first met her after my breakdown. I’m still there in many ways. I have to think about this now for real because if ever I do need a heart transplant I need to get myself mentally prepared. The heart surgery itself was bad enough. This was just told to me a month ago by one of the team members. How does one fix themselves to such a degree when they’re just tired. That head above water stuff wears you out.
    The one thing I can say that I think helps is being open with your own experience. Always help to know you’re not the only one. Not the only one to grow up partly in a abusive house hold. Not to be loved enough to be rescued from abuse. To talk to people about your therapy, your breakdown, your psychological drugs. Your self harm experiences. We need insurance, psychologists, mental health doctors, nurses need to take insurance. We should also use people who have lived these experiences or are. I was reading about a Vet hotline that was run by other vets which was just defunded by the Pentagon. They found a source for a year but this is all, and the program made sense because sometimes there’s that stigma that comes with talking to a professional although that would be optimum. The program was only 2 million a year it’s these stories that break my heart. That’s what we need. Anyway those are my thoughts for now. I’m CelestePewter on Twitter FYI maybe all lower case. Peace.

  • Jennpraro

    I am living plan B, and I am so thankful for the help I got in order to reach this state. The major part in me reaching it was learning about the disease, learning that is indeed like any other disease out there, seeking help knowing that as much as I wanted at times, death was not the answer because my boys will be left to suffer, and my husband did not deserve that either. I have my moments at times, but I am able to bounce back thanks to the tools I learned with my life coach. I have also make it my job to soread my story and to teach others that plan B can and will be achieve if learn about it. Here is the link to my story, feel free to share since it might help someone feel a bit of hope…

  • It’s great to hear that things are going so well for you! Thanks for sharing your story.

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