Death is no stranger to people with mental illness, by Mary Beth Evans

Death is no stranger to people with mental illness. Throughout history, those with mental illness have been neglected, shunned, and even killed because of the belief that they are “bewitched,” “crazy,” “retarded,” etc. Some believed it was even contagious. Excluded from society, without support, they died.

Although times have changed and the recovery movement has come a long way since then, we are still faced with the Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness. The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) Medical Directors Council included this in their 2006 report that states:

“It has been known for several years that persons with serious mental illness die younger than the general population. However, recent evidence reveals that the rate of serious morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) in this population has accelerated.  In fact, persons with serious mental illness (SMI) are now dying 25 years earlier than the general population. Their increased morbidity and mortality are largely due to treatable medical conditions that are caused by modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity, substance abuse, and inadequate access to medical care.”

State Mental Health Authority (SMHA) stakeholders are being asked to “embrace” two guiding principles:

1) Overall health is essential to mental health
2) Recovery includes wellness

Recently at NLCMH, we have lost a few very dedicated Recovery Champions at an early age. Embracing Recovery was their main journey in life. Although they will be tremendously missed, it’s at times like this we must continue to realize that we, as consumers, must remember that we need to not only take care of our mental health, but our mental wellness as well.