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The 80:20 rule

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The 80:20 rule

When people think of recovery from an episode of illness – whether physical or mental – they often think solely in terms of hospitals, doctors and nurses.

Clinical care is essential of course, but it’s not the whole story, as David, explains . . .


I want to tell you about my own 80:20 rule with mental illness.

If you look at 100% of the hardship that mental illness caused me, only around 20% was caused by symptoms, that is: hearing voices, delusional thinking and the myriad of hallucinations.

The majority of the negative impact on my life – that is 80% – came from the damage caused to my world, my sense of self, and my relationship to the community. My everyday life was turned upside down, and this is what caused most of the pain.

I experienced:

  • Fractured relationships with other people
  • Loneliness
  • Inability to relate to others
  • Damaged career
  • Being very over-weight
  • Low self-esteem and confidence
  • Social isolation
  • Inadequate housing
  • Disconnection from community
  • Reduced social activities
  • High anxiety levels
  • Lack of money
  • General low standing in society

All this is what I really had to recover from.

As you can imagine, recovery was a massive job. The process started ever so slowly and I’m still working on it today.

Only 20% of my recovery was from the symptoms of schizophrenia. Therefore a psychiatrist can only assist with this 20%.

The 80:20 rule is a very common theme with people that have a mental illness. Just like me the majority of their hardship is in dealing with everyday life. This illustrates the amazing thing about mental illness and the community. Everybody in the community is in a position to help with the majority, the 80% of the trouble.

We can all play a very important role in any number of ways, and I will tell you honestly that in some cases the assistance of others will be far more important than that of the treating psychiatrist. By just being your good, kind self you can make an incredible difference.

Mental health workers come and go, but family, friends, and the community will always be there. We can all offer support and encouragement, and be a positive influence in the lives of people who need just a little extra help.

For more information on schizophrenia visit SANE Factsheets + Podcasts.

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