Spiritual Forces and How They Affect Recovery


By Andrea Hercha-Schmook 


Since her recovery from diagnoses of acute paranoid schizophrenia, schizoid affective disorder, and manic depression, Andrea has been involved in promoting mental health. Currently, she is Chief of the Consumer Affairs and Development Section for the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Mental Health.


Spirit is the force behind our lives. The SPIRIT is a universal, principle; a principle of life. Spirit is energy. The energy we bring to our lives is what gives it a spark. It is the spiritual force through which we have the ability to work, to affect change, to perform over a period of time and space in a materialistic world. Mental illness devastates a person's spirit, the very, vital force of energy that helps us strive for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One aspect of Recovery from mental illness is renewing the spiritual energy necessary in the pursuit of life.


However, negative spiritual forces such as discriminatory practices from society, dehumanizing treatment, stereotypical images of people with mental illness by the media are some of the forces that continue devastating the spirit of people with mental illness, let alone the illness itself. This negative spirit has a force of its own, too, even if it is well intentioned to protect society from people who are different because of mental illness. Nonetheless, this negative spiritual energy from society acts as a barrier, preventing people with mental illness from integrating into communities and making it impossible for them to recover their lost lives. This social spirit is fueled by negative thoughts through mental activity producing practices and attitudes of discrimination against a class of people labeled mentally ill. This negative social spirit uses the same physical-chemical systems that produce mental illness, except in this case they produce social disease.


Society has segregated people with mental illness to live in a world that is dependent on the mental health system for food, housing, clothing, and financial entitlements. This dependency, segregation, and exclusion breeds poverty, a lifetime of mental illness, stigma, hopelessness and suicide. People with mental illness have been chained to socio/economic conditions which exclude them from opportunities afforded others in society, costing the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary costs caused by dependency and unproductive activities. These unfair practices and prejudices deny people their basic human rights. In spite of all this, a hope for a better future resulted in the disabilities movement working diligently to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act to mainstream people with disabilities into American society through equal opportunity and participation. Yet practices of discrimination in the work place, housing, insurance coverage, transportation, limited access to community services and places of public accommodations are still major barriers to Recovery. 


People with mental illness must be actively involved in their Recovery. They must understand the inner as well as the outer forces that cause mental illness and prevent Recovery so they can make pro-active choices about themselves and their lives. Recovery is also getting involved politically, volunteering on boards and committees, advocating with/and for others, voting, and educating society. This type of involvement has the power to renew the spiritual energy and empower people to responsible action, self-reliance, confidence, and competent leadership. In Recovery, one of the goals is to produce the spiritual energy necessary for people to strive for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


2000 Andrea Hercha Schmook  All Rights Reserved