The real experts: people living with mental illness

WWhen Ken Duckworth was a child, his family didn’t talk about mental health, especially not his father’s bipolar disorder. It was a touchy subject, but Duckworth knew his father shouldn’t be seen as a lost cause. Instead, his father and others like him may actually have important expertise in how to navigate the world of mental illness—expertise they acquired not through books and study but through lived experience.

“It sounds like a dark story – we don’t know how the drugs work, the diagnosis is descriptive, [mental health] the system could not be more fragmented and chaotic. And yet the truth is that people still get better,” said Duckworth, now a psychiatrist. “They find ways. is it love Is it faith? Is it lithium? Is there a specific type of psychotherapy? Is it giving to others? It’s different for different people.”

The conversation is based on Duckworth’s First Opinion essay “Unseen Mental Health Professionals: People with Mental Illness.” In it, he says that individuals who have lived with mental health problems and their families are an untapped source of wisdom on how to build a life and thrive while living with mental health conditions. Duckworth is a psychiatrist, chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and author of the newly released book, You Are Not Alone: ​​The NAMI Guide to Navigating Mental Health — With expert advice and wisdom from real people. and families.”

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