Living With Mental Illness

Ayanna Brown Village Life Center

Nearly half of all adults in the United States can expect to be living with a mental illness at some point in their lives. One in 20 will have a chronic, serious condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.

Mental illness has many forms and many faces. It can be a brief experience or a life-long condition, and it can affect all aspects of a person’s life. Though a mental illness can have a profound impact, it’s possible to live a “normal” life with this kind of condition, too. People with mental illnesses of all kinds work, go to school, have relationships, build families and realize dreams.

Managing an invisible and often misunderstood illness along with the demands of daily life can pose additional challenges and create extra stresses. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, counseling can help people with mental illnesses of all kinds find support, understanding and the resources they need not just to live with their illness, but to live well.

Counseling is available in many settings and styles, from individual therapy sessions to group meetings. Counseling might take place in a person’s home, a hospital, over the phone or even by live chat. It can include a variety of therapeutic strategies ranging from talk therapy to art and journal therapy. In all its forms, counseling offers support and resources for people with mental illnesses during a crisis or on an ongoing basis.

Counseling offers people a safe, non-judgmental place to talk honestly about feelings and experiences that others in their circle may not understand. In one-on-one sessions or in groups, people with mental illnesses can find reassurance and answers. Counselors can help with processing emotions and figuring out new strategies to deal with problematic situations, or the can simply be available to listen.

Talking with a counselor can also help people feel less alone. For instance, Stephanie receives services right in her home. A counselor helps with her medications and finding other resources she needs. She says, “We talk. That helps me a lot. I like that.” For those living alone with mental illness or coping with other health conditions, counseling can open up a world of community support and connection that benefits both mental and physical health.

Group counseling and peer mentoring can also help people with mental illnesses find support, build connections and reduce isolation. Groups encourage members to share experiences and solutions to problems and situations, and group activities can engage families and friends for outings that focus on fun, not illness. Peer-to-peer partnerships give members a support system that’s available at any time.

Counseling can help people with mental illnesses stay on track with treatment plans and just get through the day. For some, just knowing that someone is always available to talk to eases stress and builds the confidence to cope.

Bill has been getting counseling services for about two years. He likes the reassurance of knowing that he can walk in or call anytime and talk to someone about whatever is going on. He gets frequent check-ins to help with his medications, too. For Bill, access to counselors means he can “live a normal day without getting into any trouble.”

Mental illness also affects a person’s family and friends, and counseling can support them as well. Family and couples counseling can help people understand their loved one’s illness, learn how to help with treatment and make daily life run smoothly. Individual and group sessions can also help family members work through emotions such as guilt, anger and grief associated with a loved one’s condition.

Mental illness can affect someone for a short time or a lifetime, making a normal life seem out of reach. With counseling for support, connection and community, people living with mental illness can focus less on illness and more on living.

The Village Life Center, located in Plaquemine offers one-on-one and group counseling.