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What to Expect

Mental Illness – What Is It? What You Should Know

Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders. They fall along a continuum of severity. One in four Americans will experience a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime. About five percent of Americans live with a severe and persistent mental illness. In the United States, the most serious and disabling conditions affect five to ten million adults and three to five million children ages five to seventeen years old. 

No matter the severity, these disorders can profoundly disrupt a person’s:

  • Thinking
  • Feelings
  • Moods
  • Ability to relate to others
  • Capacity for coping with the demands of life

Families of individuals with mental illness face many challenges. It is important for families to remember:

  • You did not cause the illness 
  • You cannot control the illness
  • You cannot cure the illness
  • Appropriate treatment can work 

Helping Yourself or Your Family Member

Navigating a mental illness can be difficult. Centerstone is here to help, and it's important for a person undergoing mental health treatment to have or begin to build a community of support around themselves. It is vital that someone undergoing mental health treatment learn more about and understand:

  • The nature of the illness 
  • The complexity of the healthcare system
  • The services available to your family member
  • Legal system issues related to the illness 

If someone close to them, a famliy member or loved one, can learn about these things, too, it will be a great help. An understanding of these can help you and your loved ones, and the information can also assist healthcare professionals in providing the best possible care. Every person is different. Families often discover that good days and bad days are normal. The family can help by:

  • Learning about the symptoms of mental illness
  • Working with mental healthcare professionals to help build a strong support system for the affected individual
  • Understanding the appropriate medications available and what they can and cannot do
  • Learning about the side effects of medications so you can help monitor them 

What Happens at Intake? What is Intake?

Intake is an interview that usually happens during the first appointment. It is a full assessment of the individual’s symptoms, medical treatment history, living situation, social supports and financial resources. This information will be gathered and put in your electonic health record, and it used to help determine the right treatment for each person. If you would like, a family member may attend part, or all, of the intake meeting. This decision rests with the person receiving treatment. Family members can often be the ONLY source of critical details needed to make an effective treatment plan. After the initial intake meeting, the individual’s case is presented to a care team so that a treatment plan can be developed. Within a few days a care manager contacts the individual and begins to develop a trusting relationship. 

Who Are Treatment Team Members?

A treatment team approach is used to treat serious mental illness disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Treatment team members include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • The Patient or Client
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Social Workers
  • Family Members
  • Nurses
  • Care Managers and Coordinators

Care managers, or coordinators, have the closest and most frequent contact with the patient. They are responsible for coordinating all needed care and are the primary source of contact for families. They also assist the patient or client with problem solving, life skills development, controlling symptoms and ensuring that basic needs are met. Appointments with other professionals are scheduled as needed. 

Families are primary caregivers and important partners in care. They are a vital resource for the success of treatment. Feel free to contact the care manager or coordinator, or his or her supervisor, if you have a concern about your family member.

Confidentiality and Care Ethics

Healthcare information is tightly controlled by law. Patients or clients must sign a release of information to allow mental healthcare professionals to speak freely with families about their care. Family involvement is most helpful and welcome as such releases are sought. Even without a release, input or information from loved ones is encouraged. This knowledge can greatly assist in the treatment plan. Other ways family members can work as partners with mental health professionals include:

  • Note symptoms and notify healthcare professionals of changes
  • Assist in monitoring if medication is being taken as prescribed
  • Notify care team if other substances (alcohol, street or over-the counter drugs, caffeine, etc.) are used
  • Notify care team of income or benefits changes
  • Monitor stress experienced by the client or patient and notify the care team of problems

Ways the care team can help you:

  • Provide education about mental illness 
  • Provide suggestions about treatment options 
  • Provide 24-hour emergency service in times of crisis
  • Provide support and advice
  • Discuss concerns and help problem-solve with family
  • Provide information about community resources

Services Available

Services may vary by location so contact the clinic nearest you for complete information. Services available include:

  • Psychiatric medication management
  • Employment services
  • Social and recreational programs
  • Care management
  • Money and social security management
  • Local brief hospitalization
  • Long-term state hospitalization
  • Residential opportunities
  • Emergency services
  • Therapy and counseling
  • Transitional care facilities
  • Psychiatric care
  • General health support