The Importance of Getting the Right Treatment for You

OCT. 06, 2017

By Mary Giliberti, J.D.


NAMI is here to raise awareness about mental illness. We talk about different conditions, how to advocate, why stigma is a problem—but there’s another aspect of awareness that is critically important for us to talk about: services and treatment, as well as timing.

We are learning from research that treatment’s timing is important. Just like physical health conditions, the earlier you get mental health treatment, the better. NAMI understands that it is really hard to take that first step in recognizing an illness and addressing it, but we also know that time is of the essence. Research on schizophrenia, for example, has found stark differences in outcomes depending on how quickly a person began treatment after their first episode of psychosis.

In addition to entering treatment early, it’s also important to make informed choices about the type of treatment. There are several types of therapies, medications and other treatments for mental illness. And for each mental health condition, there are certain treatments that have been well-researched. That information is not as widespread as it should be, and many don’t know what their best routes to recovery are. NAMI is here to help you get information.

Take, for example, the five mental health conditions we highlighted this week for Mental Illness Awareness Week: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Dual Diagnosis, Depression, and Schizophrenia. Each of these conditions have treatment options or a combination of options that have the most hope for recovery. But, often, individuals are not aware of their choices because of their provider’s training or comfort (or lack thereof). There is just no guarantee that medical or mental health professionals will guide a person to the treatment they need.

For example, it’s really hard to know how a therapist has been trained and whether they know the psychotherapy that has been well-researched and proven most effective for your condition. This has been a major problem in treating depression, OCD and BPD. There are well-researched psychotherapies that are known to be more effective for these conditions, but people may not know them and therapists are not required to provide that information.

Compared to the training and qualifications of the people who work on our brains, the government requires clearer consumer information on the food we eat and the mortgages we purchase—so make sure to ask mental health professionals their experience and training (in many states, you can also check a professional’s license status to be sure it in good standing).

Greater transparency is needed in what kinds of treatment a practitioner can provide, but in the meantime, ask your provider, your state mental health authority or your insurer about what they know regarding the exact skills clinicians have acquired. Because we can’t rely on the system to get us where we need to be, we need to become our own teachers and our own advocates. We need to ask the right questions to find out whether we are truly getting the help we are seeking.

So, if you live with a mental health condition or love someone who does, you will want to read widely and educate yourself about your treatment options. While any step towards recovery is positive, you want to make sure you know what the research says about the effectiveness of various treatments, as well as any side effects or downsides. You can do this by exploring NAMI's Learn More pages or exploring the information available from the National Institute on Mental Health. The NAMI HelpLine has a list of many other colleague organizations, like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Each year, we hold awareness events like Mental Illness Awareness Week, and each year we engage our community. But what awareness really comes down to is getting people to the help they need. So, if you take anything away from this week, let it be this: Mental health conditions are legitimate medical conditions that need early intervention and evidence-based care. Just like cancer, just like diabetes.

If you or a loved one is experiencing mental illness, the best thing you can do is get treatment now. Not tomorrow, not next week, but now. As we close out this important awareness week, it’s time to turn awareness into action.


Mary Giliberti is CEO of NAMI.


JAN, 20, 2018 09:38:56 AM
I am sick and I am better, lol!!

DEC, 20, 2017 11:33:34 AM
Cheryl Netter
I myself have a mental health diagnosis of bipolar disorder. When I was diagnosed I wanted to find everything I could on the disorder, and ways to treat it. I was never ashamed and spoke very openly about me journey. I think it is imperative if you or someone you love or even know is diagnosed with a mental health issue to find out anything and everything you possibly can. If you're not sure where to turn for answers find someone you trust that can help. NAMI is a fantastic organization and has a wealth of information, and resources. I am now an In Our Own Voice presenter which is a great way to share stories and educate others about empowerment and recovery.

OCT, 29, 2017 01:02:19 PM
Shelley R.
I have walked through an incredible journey of getting the proper mental health/addiction treatment, diagnosis and medication for our adult son (now 27 years old). He had blocked out repeated molestation at the hands of his birth father during his visitation as a young child. He has no contact with him. Repeated Psych. ward stays, multiple treatment centers addressing trauma and addiction, after-care IOP programs and sober homes. I have so much to share with others, I want to encourage and be a support to other parents who need it. We moved to S. Florida (palm beach county) a year ago to help (finally) launch our son after 2 1/2 years of treatment landed him here. There are a lot of excellent programs and many that are NOT! I am happy to say that he is launching, Thank you Jesus! How can I get connected to people who need ideas & support?

OCT, 26, 2017 09:38:06 PM
rita lutzer
I am the mother of a 44 year old son who has schizophrenia.....he is now on 15 medications and getting more paranoid and delusional by the minute....he has been on medications since a mjor breakdown in 2008 and in and out of hospitals and mental institutions....what do i do to get them to listen to me that I think all this medication is making him worse???

OCT, 26, 2017 09:55:34 AM
I absolutely agree with the early diagnosis/early treatment but how do you get the "health professionals" on board. My husband has been seen by more than 5 "professionals" over the years and they just refer him to someone else or want more test. The latest appointment with a psychiatrist after waiting 4 months for the appointment - he was told she wasn't ready to make a diagnosis yet. She wanted to talk to previous doctors and family members. We were then told someone would contact us with another appointment. After waiting almost 3 weeks I called and received another appointment for the end of December. It is very frustrating. Here is someone who knows he needs help and wants help and not getting it.

OCT, 25, 2017 11:18:39 PM
Terri Rimmer
I've been seeing a therapist for a while and she's a social worker. I've seen many therapists since I was 12 but this one is always 15 minutes late and just doesn't care. But with Medicare, I have to take what I can get. I've had good therapists and a couple of great ones. I even sent her a disturbing piece I wrote and she was still 15 minutes late to the next appointment. It makes me feel like I don't matter. Another time I asked her to call my psychiatrist to see what the hold up was getting my meds refilled and she wouldn't do it. She knows my history and she still wouldn't do it. I just felt like why bother.

OCT, 25, 2017 10:10:35 PM
Nettie I. Harris
I have over 20 years. I Kelly..Mental nothing played with. Is the group you went to last week, an ?

OCT, 25, 2017 07:44:24 PM
debby chance
I have psychotic episodes.
Ongoing depressive disorder
Panic attacks
Hear voices and see things

OCT, 19, 2017 01:18:08 AM
Kay Thayer
I am caring for my 30 year old grandson who has been diagnosed with schizoid affective bipolar disorder. He was over medicated in the hospital in Sacramento, where he was held on an order by the court. He is now, this month, under the care ofSan Diego Behavioral Health, and his meds have been reduced to a more reasonable regimen. He is seen only once a month. He wants to talk to a Psychologist, but has no funds. Until he can get enrolled in MediCal, which is encountering some road blocks involving his wife and divorce papers. I am looking for guidance. I am uncertain as to what type of comment this comment box was seeking....

OCT, 18, 2017 12:26:52 PM
I am so glad I found this page. I am in my late 40's. I wish I had someone advocate, see the signs, or even understand the many times I myself tried to reach out. Now I am in a very deep depression, and it is true, just like my migraines, the sooner you treat, the better. (I assume) I mean, I would like to think that if I had been helped properly and continuously long ago, I might be stronger or more capable to handle what life has thrown ny way. I have two teen daughters, and my GREATEST WISH, ABOVE ANYTHING, is that they NEVER SUFFER THE PAIN AND LONLINESS I HAVE FELT. I Try to eliminate any stigma of treatment, but it is out there. In schools, in media, etc. Within their own minds, not wanting to think "there is something "wrong with them".
I'm sure many of us have 'been there' Until we understand there are actual chemical imbalances/ but that again can scare a teen.
I am a mom working hard to heal myself, to be the best mom I can be, also trying to help my girls and be sure their lives are filled with more happiness and less depression and anxiety. Any resources to guide me are so very welcome. Thank you
And to anyone else suffering, I understand how lonely it is. Sometimes the pain is unbearable.
Please know you ARE NOT ALONE.
IT SOUNDS awful....but after 20+ years, of suffering, I went to a group for the first time yesterday, and was very hesitant....I can't wait to go back!
Stay strong.

OCT, 09, 2017 09:17:49 PM
I have Mental Illnesses.

OCT, 07, 2017 02:50:11 PM
Tom McBride
You are the BEST.

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