60% “Fully Recovered” !!!



Where Do Messages of Hopelessness in Mental Health  Care Come From?


December 28,  2012

By Sophie Faught MindFreedom International Communications  Coordinator

As part of its I  GOT BETTER campaign to challenge hopelessness in mental  health care, MindFreedom International conducted a two-part Hope in Mental Health Care  Survey from June to October of  this year. The survey was designed to gather answers to these three  questions:

1. How prevalent are messages of hopelessness in mental  health care? 2. What are the sources  and contents of these  messages? 3. What is the veracity of these messages? In other words, do  hopeless prognoses and statements about recovery, medication use, etc. generally  prove true or false?

Well over 1000 individuals participated in the survey,  contributing their experience, wisdom, and opinions to a growing body of  knowledge about recovery from mental and emotional distress. In this and  forthcoming blogs, we’ll be sharing the major findings that emerged from our  analysis of the survey data.

(You can download the final survey report that  outlines survey methods, characteristics of the survey sample, and all  findings here.)

The mental health system itself  is the most common source of messages of hopelessness.

Respondents to part two of the survey who had received a  psychiatric diagnosis (n=390) overwhelmingly pointed towards the mental health  system as the source of messages of hopelessness:




  • 64% were   never told by a mental health provider during their mental health care that   recovery from their mental/emotional problem was possible, and 41% were actually told by a mental health   provider that recovery was   impossible.
  • 76% were   told by a mental health provider provider that they would have to take medications for the rest of   their life.
  • 49% were   specifically told by a mental health provider that they could   not reach a personal goal (for example, education, career,   independent housing, relationship, children, etc.) because of a psychiatric   diagnosis.

The frequency of hopeless messages was even greater for  individuals with diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar  disorder.

Were these messages of  hopelessness true?

Looking again at respondents with diagnoses of schizophrenia and  bipolar disorder (described by the American Psychiatric Association as “serious  mental illnesses”*and frequently assigned an extremely negative prognosis in the medical  literature), we see that often these messages of hopelessness were  unwarranted.

Almost 2/3 of  respondents with these diagnoses who were once told recovery is impossible  described themselves as “recovered.”

  • Diagnosis of Schizophrenia (n=94): 59% were told by a mental   health provider that recovery was impossible. But of these individuals   receiving such a negative prognosis, 90% said that they had “experienced at   least some recovery from a mental or emotional problem,” and 66%   ranked themselves as “recovered” or “fully recovered” (equivalent to a ranking of 8, 9, or   10 on a 10-point recovery scale).
  • Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder (n=196): 51% were told by a mental   health provider that recovery was impossible. Of these individuals, 91% said   that they had “experienced at least some recovery from a mental or emotional   problem,” and 60% ranked themselves as “recovered” or “fully   recovered.”

The same trend continues across the board, for every diagnosis. A  significant percentage of individuals once told by mental health providers that  recovery is impossible describe themselves as “recovered” or “fully  recovered”:



This vast disconnect between prognosis (as predicted by mental  health providers) and actual outcome (as reported by psychiatric survivors)  forces us to ask the question: Why send messages of hopelessness when they are  so often untrue?

A different  message

MindFreedom International’s I GOT BETTER  campaign is about sending a different kind of  message, one of hope and human possibility.

You can see some of those  possibilities in our collection of videoed  stories of triumph over psychiatric adversity  (see these written stories,  also). And if you have a story to share, we encourage you to do so. We want to compile a body of knowledge  to counter the narrative of hopelessness, to show that there are diverse ways to  achieve balance after mental or emotional distress.

There are many ways to mental and emotional wellness.  What’s  yours?

* American Psychiatric Association (2012). Schizophrenia. Retrieved  fromhttp://www.apa.org/topics/schiz/index.aspx; American Psychiatric Association (2012). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved  from http://www.apa.org/topics/bipolar/index.aspx.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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