Psych Central is pleased to be a partner with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) in their project for April — Target Zero to Thrive. The campaign wants people to consider complete remission of your mental illness symptoms as a goal to strive toward.
We think too many people involved in treatment of mental illness — from therapists and psychiatrists, to patients and caregivers — don’t reliably measure symptom change of their illness. This would be akin to a doctor not ordering labs to see how cancer treatment was progressing in someone with cancer.
Treatment is most effective when it is tracked and measured. And so targeting zero symptoms seems like a worthy goal for many with mental illness.
It’s not clear to me why most people in mental health treatment today don’t track their treatment progress. Perhaps it’s because too many professionals consider it just “paperwork” that won’t help their patients get better. Or perhaps because too many simply don’t have the background in the dozens of different reliable assessments they should be using every week with their patients.
Regardless of the reason, I’d suspect if you asked 10 people today in treatment for depression what their depression score was in the past month, 8 of them wouldn’t know it (unless they tracked it on their own).
Has it gotten better? Has it gotten worse?? How can you really know unless you’re tracking it?
Targeting zero symptoms may seem ideal, but the DBSA has a rationale for this approach:
If successful treatment for cancer proceeds with the goal of removing every cancerous cell — to achieve complete remission — why do we consider treatment for mood disorders a success when symptoms continue to persist? With Target Zero to Thrive, we hope to affect a change in thinking about how we approach treatment for mental health conditions.
Of course, the top priority is to ensure a person living with depression or bipolar disorder is out of crisis and can maintain a stable mood. But better is not always well. We believe every person deserves not just to survive, but to thrive. To be truly successful, we must pursue a goal of true wellness.
We agree and support the DBSA’s campaign this month to target zero symptoms as a goal for your treatment. We also agree this may not be appropriate for anyone (for instance, if you live with a chronic mental illness).
Join us in raising our voice in support of targeting zero symptoms. And in order to do so, to demand in your own treatment that your mental health professional track your treatment progress with reliable tests that measure treatment progress.
Learn more: Target Zero to Thrive This April