One of the biggest obstacles to advancing mental health care and services has long been the attitude that patients should not have a voice in their treatment. But now, a small movement of patients is pushing mental health workers to consider clients’ perspectives more actively in recovery.
The “client movement” encourages patients to participate in their recovery by creating their own programs to reach their goals. It also works to include more doctors and providers who have lived with and overcome mental health illnesses themselves. —BF
The 53-year-old Gonzalez was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and severe depression more than two decades ago. Due in large part to a drug and alcohol problem combined with his illness, he spent 12 years in and out of hospitals in New York. At one point, after a suicide attempt, he was put in five-point restraints. He witnessed the results of some of the stigma that existed even within the mental health services profession at the time.
He became frustrated that he was not allowed a voice in his treatment. He wanted to set goals for himself. He most wanted to wean himself off the drugs that had helped lead to his collapse, minimize his reliance on treatment and even go back to work. “They almost teach you to be dependent on them, to be dependent on the system,” he said. “A lot of providers don’t think recovery is possible.”
Gonzalez, along with a network of similarly driven people in Los Angeles, is now part of movement of mental health clients who push for more recognition of the client’s perspective in mental health services.