Treatment and Recovery

Though there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for mental illness, recovery is possible and help is available. Here are answers to a few commonly asked questions.

Q: What are the steps for getting help?
Whether you are experiencing a mental health challenge yourself or seeking to help someone you care about, the first step is reaching out and connecting with support. Speak Up and get on the road to recovery.

You can begin by encouraging the person who is facing the mental health challenge to consult someone they already know and trust – a primary care physician or spiritual counselor, perhaps. They can help find someone qualified to work through specific issues your friend or family member is experiencing and get them started on the road to recovery.

Remember, help is available and accessible. Call the Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for additional support, including referrals to professionals who can begin the process. You can also check out our list of resources for more information and support.

Q: Do people recover from mental illness? What treatments are used?

Each mental illness diagnosis requires different forms of treatment. Options vary depending on the type of symptoms being experienced, as well as the individual’s history, cultural background, treatment preferences and other factors. With appropriate treatment and support, people with mental health concerns report a 70-90% improvement in symptoms and quality of life. Check out these real stories of recovery from fellow San Diegans.

Q: What about medication?
While not always necessary, a number of medications are available to treat conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, panic disorder and schizophrenia. After evaluating the individual, a medical doctor can discuss available drug options or combinations that may help alleviate symptoms.

Q: What other kinds of treatment are there?
Individual, group or family counseling, therapy and skills training can be effective either alone or in conjunction with medication. Sometimes, creative holistic therapies involving music, art, horticulture or drama can be helpful. Recent studies have also demonstrated that specific types of regular physical activity can also significantly help certain conditions (such as depression and anxiety). The best way to find out what works best is to meet with someone you trust, like a family doctor, and get a referral to a mental health practitioner who can explain the options and offer advice about what might be effective for the particular circumstances.

Q: What about support groups or peer support?
Support groups provide opportunities to learn health-enhancing techniques and build a supportive network of others who are also experiencing the same mental health challenges. Creating individualized plans for maintaining wellness and dealing with crises before they arise can also be helpful. Plans can be created individually, with the help of a peer, other mental health provider or in a group setting. Peers (other people who have lived through a similar experience) are a big part of the healing process in support groups and may also work in other mental health treatment settings as a guide and supporter.

Q: What about people who have a mental health problem and are also using alcohol or other substances?
Programs are available for the treatment of mental illness and substance use issues in tandem (sometimes called co-occurring.) Co-occuring disorders can often become a cyclical problem with one influencing the other. Specific programs are designed to help break the cycle and aid in recovery.

Q: How do I know which mental health practitioner is the right one for me?
Before making an appointment, spend a few minutes on the phone with a mental health professional or counseling service to determine whether the fit seems right. For example, some counselors specialize in working with children, while others focus on adults dealing with depression. Some can prescribe medications and others cannot. With a little research, you can find the right individual or combination of professionals for yourself, your family member or friend. As a starting point, visit the resource page for an overview of local resources or review this fact sheet. (PDF)

For additional Read Up opportunities, check out the It’s Up to Us mental health bulletins.