It is important to recognize that persons with mental illnesses have fundamental life needs in addition to the need for mental health services. These fundamental needs exist in such areas of housing, employment, health care, transportation, education, and community support activities. Persons who experience mental illnesses have the same basic life needs as anyone else in our society. Similarly, mentally ill persons have the same right to have these needs met as other members of society.
Unfortunately, many persons with mental illness, especially the chronically mentally ill, experience great deficiencies in these areas of basic life needs. The inability of our present system to adequately address these needs creates environmental stresses which exacerbate the debilitating aspects of mental illness. On a more positive note, those individuals who receive adequate support in addressing life domain issues are more successful in adapting to and managing their mental illnesses.
The Alaska Mental Health Board's recent survey of mental health consumers indicates that housing, transportation and employment/job training are extremely high-level needs that must be addressed in their lives. Unless and until these needs are met, persons with mental illness will not maximize the potential for self-sufficiency and productivity within their lives.