Informational Support is Necessary in Managing Mental Illness

Informational support is a type of support that I believe is necessary in managing illness, especially mental illness.

Informational support is defined by the European Union Public Health Information System as support that includes advice, suggestions, or directives that assist the person to respond to personal or situational demands.  I believe informational support helps educate a person to better understand their illness.  In fact, I personally have found that the lack of informational support or education can cause a mental illness to be more difficult to treat and manage.

When I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, I was so relieved to learn that the illness existed and that I was not crazy.  But I was left to learn about the illness on my own and through loved ones.  Receiving a diagnosis helped me tremendously but not being provided with information about the illness caused me to feel isolated.  I would, silently, ask myself, “Did I do something to cause the illness to strike.”

When I experienced my illness, the internet was not as accessible as it is today.  Today, there is a wealth of information available to us.  Sometimes not always accurate information.  I believe receiving factual and relevant information directly from health care professionals is much more empowering.  In my case, I did not have the opportunity to receive treatment from a professional with expertise in mental health related to childbearing until my son was almost 8 years old.  It was in 2003, when I received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, postpartum onset, that I was able to begin to understand and manage my illness.  Prior to then, since I had no history of mental illness, I continued to believe that I could get back to the person I was prior to the onset of postpartum psychosis.

Why did it take so long for me to learn the facts about my illness?  I have to believe it was ignorance, in my case.  But the problem is that lack of education and informational support is still affecting people dealing with illness.  In a recent survey conducted by MedTera, a patient education and marketing firm that serves the life sciences and health care industry, patients want more informational support from their physicians.  The survey found that at least one-half of U.S. patients do not believe they have the information they need to manage their conditions once they leave the doctor’s office. Furthermore, most people feel their physicians don’t communicate with them enough about specific kinds of information, including online resources, information about prescription drugs and side effects, and diet.

Yes, that is a lot of information that the health care professionals are expected to provide but, I believe, the health care professionals can certainly provide information to patients on resources or other professionals that they can contact to obtain the information needed to manage their condition.  In my own case, once I was directed to a physician that educated me about my condition, I was able to begin my journey in managing my illness.  The informational support I received was not the only type of support necessary, but it was the support I needed to begin the journey.

Below are a few links used for research and to provide additional information.

Patients want more informational support from their physicians

Social support

Additional Resources