A New Resource For Those Contemplating a Psychiatric Advance Directive

Mental Health America has just announced the launching of a website dedicated to providing people dealing with mental illness (as a sufferer themselves, a family member, or a health care professional) with information on psychiatric advance directives. The site, My Plan, My Life - My Psychiatric Advance Directive, is a public awareness initiative sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

A psychiatric advance directive can be an extremely valuable tool for people who have serious mental health issues, especially disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. During an episode of psychosis or other severe manifestation of symptoms, people are generally incapable of making reasoned, informed decisions about their mental health treatment. A psychiatric advance directive allows you to make these decisions ahead of time, while your mental health problems are under control, so that you have a plan in place in the event of a crisis. It also enables you to appoint an agent who may make decisions about your treatment if you are unable to do so.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 psychiatric outpatients in five U.S. cities, psychiatric advance directives are underused in the United States. About 70 percent of those in public-sector treatment said they would like a psychiatric advance directive and would complete one if given assistance, but fewer than 1 in 10 have actually done so. If you are one of the more than 9 in 10 who have not completed a psychiatric advance directive, this may be a good time to learn more about it.

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