Seeing the Person, Not the Illness

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

On this, the 20th anniversary of Congress establishing the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week, Northern Lakes CMH wants to recognize the triumphs of people living with, prevailing over, and recovering from mental illnesses.

We also want to acknowledge the family members, staff, and peers who — with tenacity and courage — support and advocate for people with mental disorders.

The days of hundreds of thousands of persons warehoused in state hospitals are gone. Today, people with mental disorders can find outpatient and rehabilitation services, housing programs, and peer support. They are not shut away, defined only by their illnesses. They are our neighbors, our colleagues, and our friends. They are not their disease.

We have come a long way — we know that prevention is possible, treatment is effective and recovery is to be expected — but we can and must do more. Statistics from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program indicate that 3.3 million people who received payments in 2009 were diagnosed with mental disorders. That’s more than a third of the nearly nine million people receiving benefits.

We are grateful that mental illnesses are being identified and acknowledged and that financial supports are available. We are proud that our organization is at the forefront of the recovery movement, continually working our way through our Recovery Transformation Blueprint and the further improvements it calls for. We must continue to encourage society to focus on the unique and vibrant aspects of each individual, no matter the disabilities or differences.

We wanted to take this moment to send a message of hope and appreciation to those consumers who persevere and to those who support them on the road to recovery. We also wanted to take this moment to express our commitment to continue the momentum for full social inclusion. We can’t take progress for granted. We will remain vigilant to continue to make gains. Working with each other and our communities, we can ensure that during next year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, and each year after that, we will be able to celebrate the additional advances we’ve made.