A Mental Illness Diagnosis Increases Your Responsibilities

January 22, 2012 Natasha Tracy

A mental illness diagnosis doesn't remove the responsibility of the patient for their own mental wellness. On the contrary, it increases your responsibility.

As I work, I battle the stigma around mental illness. It feels like often, all day, every day, it's the only thing I do. But I do it because I feel it's important. I feel it matters. I feel it changes people's lives.

And one of the misconceptions I've heard multiple times recently is about bipolar and mental illness diagnosis. That by accepting a diagnosis of a mental illness this somehow removes the responsibility from the individual for their own wellness. That, somehow, a mental illness diagnosis makes the patient weak because now they are looking for someone to "save" them or "cure" them.

Well nothing could be farther from the truth. Getting a mental illness diagnosis is only the first step in what a patient must do in order to recover.

Mental Illness Diagnosis and Responsibility

I have yet to meet anyone that thought, "Gee, things are hard, I bet a mental illness diagnosis would make it better."

And indeed, if relieving yourself of responsibility was the result of a diagnosis, it would make things easier, but alas, this just isn't the case. Getting a mental illness diagnosis isn't like hiring an office assistant; you still have to get your own coffee.

In fact, I would suggest that getting a mental illness diagnosis is actually an invocation of greater responsibility. Because now, you're responsible for managing a life-threatening illness. Sounds fairly heavy to me.

Doctors Can't Cure You

And unless your doctor has an ego the size of Texas and likes to lie to you, no doctor is going to tell you that they are going to cure your mental illness. Doctors are a great help, and often the cornerstone of fighting mental illness, but they aren't men on white horses. They are more like the white horses themselves - you need them to get where you want to go, but you still have to do the work yourself.

What About Waiting for Medication to Work?

True, mental illness is often a waiting game. We're often stuck waiting to see if med A or med B is going to help us and this is a disempowering place to be. But, really, waiting for meds is just a tiny part of the treatment plan. There's getting your life together. There's developing and maintaining routine. There's therapy. There's support. There are healthy habits. There are appointments. There are coping skills. And on, and on, and on. While waiting is hard, it's not exactly free time.

You're the Only One Who Can Make You Better

Now understand, I'm not saying that all treatments work or that treatments will work tomorrow or that it's your fault if a treatment doesn't work - it isn't. What I am saying is that if you're not doing the work you certainly aren't going to get better. And your responsibility - as a person who wants to be well - is to do everything in your power to get well. And that's a lot. And that's hard. And that's daily. Choosing health means making good decisions all day every day because each one will have more impact than for a healthy person.

And if that isn't oodles of responsibility, then I don't know what is.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, January 22). A Mental Illness Diagnosis Increases Your Responsibilities, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Jeremy Chan
July, 5 2016 at 9:58 pm

It's one of the most discouraging things to say, even tho there is a tinge of perhaps some truth per se. I get the part about one 'must will oneself', 'must will yourself to want to get well'.
When a person is way down down at the bottom-most pit, and even then below the sludge and rocks above, such a diagnosed person can't even think or will oneself to take responsibility for one's being.
A diagnosis takes away the responsibility from the patient?? Might as well say, " hey, you climb out and over the hill and crest that hill (mental illness), then that person's friends and family will be there for you. Else, you're on your own, and you need to climb that hill with one hand and one leg tied behind your back! ( or might as well be a cliff with nary a hand/foothold.)".
This write-up is so discouraging, if a person that is so massively depressed reads this, such a person would be so discouraged, one might as well not live anymore. If I took your words at face value, at my lowest point, I might just jump off right now.
Do you even know what you're writing and saying? and the impact to people who are suffering and desperately need help? Now that's an irresponsible write up.

March, 28 2016 at 12:54 pm

It is very hard work, but so true that no one else can do it for you.

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