What are the next steps after getting a diagnosis of a mental illness?

First, it’s important to understand your diagnosis. Some people with mental health conditions experience relief and hope when they get a diagnosis. Others may feel like a diagnosis is “just words.” You may even feel several competing emotions at the same time—relief at having a name for the things bothering you, but fear and anger that you have an illness. You may feel that the diagnosis you received carries negative or damaging perceptions and may not want to accept it, but getting a diagnosis is a useful step in receiving effective treatment and improving your quality of life.

Learning more about the mental health condition and treatment options helps you to better establish a treatment plan that works for you. Being well-informed allows you to make decisions about finding a mental health professional and which treatment settings may be most helpful in helping you achieve wellness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides general information for people experiencing mental illness and their families.

Many people find it helpful to talk with others who can identify with your situation and provide support. Your local NAMI offers free education programs and support groups that connect you with others affected by mental health conditions themselves or in their family. These groups and courses provide information on mental health conditions, symptoms, recovery strategies and coping tips. It can be extremely beneficial to seek out local peer-run support groups and recovery or drop-in centers. It can be extremely beneficial, especially in the beginning, to know that you are not alone. Even with good family and friend support there is a special kind of support in being around others who have faced similar situations and moved into recovery. It is extremely important that people receive, from the beginning, the message that recovery is possible and even likely.

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