Thursday, May 22, 2008

Building Awareness that Treatment Works

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The last several weeks have been marked by studies, events, commemorations, and other activities normally associated with similar markings. For people who have successfully overcome severe mental illnesses, it is indeed a month to be proud.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) used this month to tell his colleagues in the Senate about one of his constituents with a remarkable story. Many in the field of psychology are well aware of the work of Dr. Fred Frese. Dr. Frese is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Clinical Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. It was at Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital where he spent 15 years as a department head and author of numerous books, research articles, and studies. His body of work earned him the American Psychological Association’s highest honor, the Hildreth Award. In addition Dr. Frese gives generously of his time in talents in many ways, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Dr. Frese’s professional accomplishments speak for themselves. But there is much more to his life. Dr. Frese has been living with paranoid schizophrenia since 1966. He is like many people with schizophrenia who are living proof that treatment works.

“Dr. Frese is remarkable,” Sen. Brown notes, “But his recovery is not unusual.”

That is just the point. The consequences of not treating severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia are too familiar. Highlighting the lives of people like Dr. Frese is a great way to break the stigma associated with mental illness. Treatment is the key to more of these success stories.

“Imagine a world where individuals with mental disorders are supported and treated, not marginalized and discriminated against,” Sen. Brown says. “Imagine a world where we see individuals first and disability second. Imagine the wealth of talent and resources that individuals with mental illness can realize with treatment.”