About Mental Illness and Recovery


Over the course of your life, if you experience a mental illness, your thinking, mood, and/or behavior could be affected. Mental illnesses are often not the result of one event but a compilation of different factors. In fact, research suggests that there are many factors that could contribute to mental illnesses including: biological and biochemical processes, life stressors, or a family history of mental illness.

Some serious mental illnesses include: major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. However, while another individual might have the same diagnosis as you, mental illness manifests differently in every person. The main thing to remember is that you are not alone and that help is always available.

Mental illnesses are medical conditions and should be viewed as such. With the proper care and treatment many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder. In fact, many people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

Mental health conditions

Listed below are guides that can help provide you with an overview of specific mental illnesses. For a more extensive list of links that can connect you to state and national resources, visit the NAMI Wisconsin Education Links page.

Anxiety Disorders
Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
Eating Disorders
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Panic Disorder
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Schizoaffective Disorder


Recovery IS possible. While there is no one-size-fits-all path to recovery, the journey to improve your health and wellness is a process. Recovery allows you to integrate your unique needs, desires and own idea about life and wellness. So while what works for one person may not work for another, recovery focuses on what the individual defines for themselves as living a full, meaningful, productive and satisfying life while living with a mental health challenge. 

Important to recovery is appropriate diagnosis and treatment. This can include medication, therapy, education, peer support, and other complimentary approaches. Learn more about the types of treatment and services available for people living with a mental illness. You can also call our office at 608-249-7188 to learn more about services available in Dane County specifically, as well as the peer support programs we offer.

Also important to recovery is using tools to make informed decisions now about things that may happen in the future. Two helpful tools to consider are advance directives and a safety plan. 

  1. Advance Directives support the principle of recovery by ensuring the choices of the individual regarding treatment and services are honored in the event their judgment becomes impaired. A directive can help someone get the care they want at a time when they are not doing well. For more information on how to develop and implement a directive, please see the document below.

    10 commonly asked questions about PADs for Wisconsin

  2. Safety Plans can help guide you through difficult moments when you or a loved one is having thoughts of harming themselves. In general, a safety plan is designed so that you can follow through with the steps that are outlined until you feel safe. It would be most helpful to have your plan stored in a location that is easily accessible during emotionally trying times. 

    Provided below are sample safety plans that you can fill out as you see fit.

    Suicide Prevention Sample Safety Plan- A fill-in-the-blank template for developing a safety plan with an individual at increased risk for a suicide attempt.

    CHILD Short-Term Crisis Intervention Plan-  An action plan that can be used when a student may be at risk of harm to self or others. A child’s crisis plan should be developed by individuals knowledgeable about the child and include someone trained in mental health crisis response.