Myths and Facts: Understanding Long-Term Mental Health Care

Approximately 20 percent of American adults live with a mental illness. When considering the lifetime prevalence of any mental illness, this number reaches even higher. And yet a stigma against these chronic illnesses persists. One of the biggest dangers of that stigma, and the many misconceptions about mental illness, is that too few people seek treatment. Long-term, residential care comes with a particularly strong stigma, but it is valuable and even necessary for many people. Understand the myths and facts about long-term mental health care to make better choices about treatment for yourself or a loved one.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a mental illness, getting treatment is essential, even lifesaving for many. Good treatment can help you reduce episodes, manage symptoms, cope with triggers, and enjoy a better quality of life.

One of the best ways to get care, especially for someone with a severe or complicated diagnosis, is residential treatment. Long-term care provides a safe, structured, supportive environment for learning how to live better with mental illness. If you have no experience with this kind of treatment, it may seem intimidating. Learn the facts so you can make the best choice.

Myth: Getting Treatment for Mental Illness Signals Weakness

Fact: Asking for help is a sign of personal strength and courage. A misconception about all types of mental health care is that seeking treatment betrays a personal weakness. It is essential to understand that getting treatment is brave and strong, not weak. No one can recover from mental illness without some type of support. Mental illness is the same as any chronic physical condition—diabetes or heart disease, for example—and requires ongoing treatment to keep relapses at bay.

Myth: Long-Term Care Leads to Dependence on Services

Fact: The ultimate goal of care is independence. Rather than foisting lifelong dependence on anyone, treatment in the right facility provides tools and a support system for long-term independence. Mental health professionals want clients to grow and learn to manage their symptoms and recurrences, not necessarily alone but as independently as possible.

Myth: Long-Term Care is Hospitalization

Fact: Hospitalization is short-term. Long-term care for mental illness is not typically in a sterile hospital setting, which is uncomfortable for many people. Most facilities are more like residences—large homes with multiple bedrooms, living areas, outdoor areas, kitchens, and other home-like facilities. Helping patients feel comfortable and secure in the facility is important to residential treatment centers. It allows them to focus on care and getting well.

Myth: Residents are Isolated from Family

Fact: The best treatment facilities encourage family involvement. Most treatment centers do have a short period of time without family contact. This allows the client to decompress, settle in, and get to know the staff. It helps staff get to know the client as well, without the influences of family.

Ultimately, though, the goal is to work with the family. Loved ones are invited and encouraged to participate in family days, family therapy, relational therapy, support groups, and even education programs. Aftercare programs also include family when appropriate. Mental illness is a condition of the family and an individual’s environment, which means including loved ones is essential for the best outcomes.

Myth: Everyone is Treated the Same Way in a Long-Term Facility

Fact: Residential treatment facilities evaluate incoming clients so that they can craft individual care plans. Just because the setting is a group of people receiving care does not mean that treatment in a residential center is one-size-fits-all.

In fact, residents get more individualized treatment than they would in a shorter program. Long-term care allows the staff to get to know their patients better and to change and adapt treatment as needed. Every good treatment facility begins with a detailed evaluation so that the care team can develop a unique plan, best suited to each individual. This takes time, and it’s worthwhile.

Myth: A Longer Time Spent in Treatment Means Curing Mental Illness

Fact: Mental illnesses are chronic and must be treated as such, even with long-term care. Spending longer in treatment can be more effective for managing mental illness, but it does not promise a cure. Conditions like depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder are chronic, just like asthma and diabetes.

Although there is no cure, residential care still provides the best approach for long-term management for most people. Spending more time in treatment allows clients to learn and practice the skills they will use once living independently again.

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Myth: Long-Term Care is Too Structured

Fact: Residents get plenty of free time and opportunities to choose their activities and therapies. The best treatment centers do have some structure to each day. Within that loose structure, however, are chances for residents to take agency for how they spend their time.

At a good long-term care facility, you can expect to have scheduled therapy and activities for several hours a day. You will also have plenty of time to choose alternative therapies, to learn about nutrition, to exercise or spend time outside, or to simply relax with other residents.

Myth: It Is Impossible to Find Time for Residential Treatment

Fact: Most residents find solutions to the challenges of leaving home for a few weeks. Many facilities offer options, like 30-day, 60-day, or even 90-day plans, so that clients can choose a length of treatment that meets their needs and regular responsibilities.

In terms of work, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires that employers allow workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for health reasons. Depending on the situation, this can apply to mental health. Under the law, you are entitled to your job when you return.

Myth: Long-Term Facilities Are Only for People with Severe Mental Illness

Fact: Anyone struggling with any degree of mental illness can benefit from long-term, residential care. The idea that only severely impaired people can be admitted to or benefit from a treatment facility is a myth that only perpetuates the stigma of seeking care. The right treatment center helps all clients with a variety of experiences:

  • Personalized treatment plans
  • One-on-one therapies
  • Group support and therapy
  • Family involvement, therapy, and psychoeducation
  • Alternative and creative therapies
  • Recreation and adventure therapy
  • Health and nutrition education
  • A safe, supportive environment to focus on wellness

Myth: Residential Care is Only for the Wealthy

Fact: Treatment facilities work with insurance companies to get clients as much reimbursement as possible. Private treatment centers generally offer services above and beyond what typical health insurance plans cover. This doesn’t make it unaffordable, though. With maximum reimbursements through insurance, many people find it manageable to get excellent care at a reasonable price.

Before you jump to judgment and discount long-term care for mental illness, get all the facts. If someone you care about is resisting getting this kind of treatment, combat their misconceptions with the truth. Residential care for mental health difficulties may take time out of your life, but it leads to long-term, effective recovery.

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with complex mental illnesses. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.