One of the biggest contributions to my recovery was education about my mental illness diagnosis, treatment and medication. It empowered me with information and helped me play a more active role in my treatment and movement into recovery.
If you are a family member or loved one, learning about your loved one’s diagnosis, treatment and medication can help you assist them toward recovery. It gives you points to discuss and it shows them that you care…they are not alone in this struggle.
A great place to start learning about your diagnosis is by visiting the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website at https://www.nami.org/Learn-More. It has a long list of various mental health disorders and features information on each one, including “Diagnosis,” “Treatment,” and “Support.” There is also a section on “Support for Family Members and Caregivers” (https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers). NAMI is a grassroots, nonprofit organization that provides free education and support for those with mental illness and their loved ones throughout the country. If you are interested in one of their support groups or Family-to-Family Class, search for one in your surrounding area at one of the above NAMI websites.
Another source of information on mental health disorders is the DSM-V. It is the the “bible” clinicians use to make a diagnosis. To locate your condition, I recommend typing, “DSM-V” and then your diagnosis into the search engine. For example, for Major Depressive Disorder, I would type in “DSM-V Major Depressive Disorder.” This will give you the various symptoms one must have in order to receive such diagnosis.
As mentioned earlier in the blog, NAMI’s website contains information about mental health conditions and treatment. Treatment strategies are included with each condition. Another good source is http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/mental-disorders. To further research various treatment strategies, search each strategy individually on the internet.
For medications, I often just Google the medication name to learn more about it. One such site is http://www.webmd.com/drugs. Please use caution when looking up your medications. During research, a pharmaceutical company must list all the events that occurred during medical trials, even if it is strongly suspected that the medication did not cause it. Therefore, use caution when reading over the side effects. I give this warning because some people read over the side effects and get frightened…some decide to discontinue or stop taking the medications. It is important to consult with a physician should you have any questions or concerns about your medication. Don’t just quit or decide not to take it without checking with your doctor and asking questions about your concerns.
I have found it personally interesting that sometimes I have experienced side effects different than what was listed for the medication. Should this occur, don’t hesitate to bring this up with your doctor. Be open and feel comfortable telling your doctor anything regarding your illness and medications. Your health and quality of life matters.
Lastly, please use caution when using the internet to do research. Make sure that the information you are reading has a reliable author/organization. I often look at who the author is, do they provide any sources for their information and who are those sources (are they reliable).
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