Add To Favorites

'Lost Patients' podcast Episode 6: What does recovery from mental illness look like?

Seattle Times - 4/23/2024

Apr. 23—There's no simple, quick answer for how our society can better help people with serious mental illnesses.

But maybe it starts with approaching the challenge from a new perspective, from a place of truly seeking to understand what it's like to have a mental illness, and being willing to adapt in response.

"What's missing is genuine curiosity about how individual people in psychosis are experiencing the world," posits Will James, host of the podcast "Lost Patients" from The Seattle Times and KUOW. "And maybe this lack of curiosity led to a system that wasn't built around the needs of people who are sick, but instead, what was expedient for the rest of us."

In the sixth and final episode of "Lost Patients," released Tuesday, James follows three stories of people who have found a form of recovery from their illnesses, recovery being different for everyone.

One now serves as a peer counselor, and has a good relationship with the voices he still hears. Another has learned what triggers her psychosis, and about how structure in her life can help her lessen the episodes. A third story focuses on a psychiatrist whose family has developed routines to live with and care for their son, who has schizophrenia.

"These stories reveal not only what recovery from serious mental illness can look like and the changes that can make that more possible, but also the ways we get in the way," James says.

All episodes of Lost Patients are now available on major podcast platforms.

After you listen, dive deeper

Truly developing a better system for helping people with serious mental illnesses will take fundamental change. But there are smaller steps that can help us make progress in areas like expanding the mental health workforce, or giving more agency to people being hospitalized.

Professional help: Washington state needs more mental health professionals, at all levels of care. Four people working in the field gave their ideas for how to recruit and retain more mental health workers, ranging from improving insurance reimbursement rates to allowing interns to be paid for their work.

Turning to peers: Peer counselors — people who have their own experience with mental health challenges — are a growing and important niche in mental health care. Often, they can build close connections to people and relate to them in a way clinicians can't. And the role doesn't require as much schooling or licensure, meaning they can get trained faster.

Increasing agency: A little-known right exists in Washington to allow patients to write "advanced directives" laying out preferences for their treatment, before they can't or won't consent to care.

"The goal of this system is getting people back to that place of self determination ... finding ways to promote that and empower people in our system is one of the most crucial things that we can do," said Elizabeth Perry, a health equity consultant who worked on legislation related to advanced directives.


(c)2024 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.