To the Editor: I was pleased to see that the August issue focused on improving medical care for persons with mental illness, of which I am one. The problem of medical care must be solved at all levels, not simply with a "top down" approach.
The medical model first sought to "fix" us via the actions of clinicians upon us. The best that we could hope for was to have our illness controlled, in remission, or "maintained." We could strive to be "higher functioning," but this was an elusive goal. Clinicians sometimes helped us, but we learned that the power for changing our lives lay outside of us.
It was an improvement when we claimed for ourselves the recovery model. According to this model, recovery is possible for every person and we are all capable of leading a meaningful and unique life. A life is created by each person out of her or his own potential and expresses that individual's constellation of abilities, strengths, supports, and choices. We learned that the power of recovery lies within each of us. Although we may use supports, we have the power to determine our own course.
Now we have the wellness model, which takes the recovery model one step further. According to the wellness model:
•It is our human birthright to recover and be well.
•It is our right to express and enjoy our recovery without suffering preventable diseases and premature death.
•We must have hope, believing in the truth that we can enjoy long, meaningful lives.
•We have the ability to make choices that support our greater health, safety, and well-being.
•We are inherently whole at the deepest of level of our being, and the path to wellness is the journey of discovering and expressing this wholeness.
•Our deep wholeness can guide us in making choices about what we need to be well. This intuitive sense is powerful when combined with all of the available resources and information to help us make informed choices.
•Keys to wellness are kindness, gentleness, and a nonjudgmental stance toward self and others. We cannot push ourselves or other people into wellness. We can offer hope and, as Patricia Deegan, Ph.D., a former patient and a mental health activist, said, "We can, with understanding, create conditions that potentially excite motivation."
•Keys to success include working to express one's potential while accepting one's self and communicating positive expectations and acceptance of self and peers.
According to the wellness model, clients of the public mental health system do not have to die 25 years before their time. Mutual support and personal efforts to develop wellness lifestyle changes can create a "culture of wellness" within the mental health community. Every time we encourage and support one another to make a choice for health or choose this for ourselves, we are helping to create a paradigm shift.
Most of us know of persons who died too early. We need to turn this trend around. This transformation is for our very survival.
Ms. Caughey is the peer wellness coordinator at Benton County Health Services, Corvallis, Oregon.