Opinion: The real experts: people living with mental illness

When Ken Duckworth was a child, his family didn’t talk about mental health, especially not his father’s bipolar disorder. It was an untouchable topic, but Duckworth knew his father shouldn’t be seen as a lost cause. Instead, his father and others like him might actually have critical expertise on how to navigate the world with mental illness — expertise they gained not through books and studying but through lived experience.

“It sounds like a dark story — we don’t know how the meds work, diagnosis is descriptive, the [mental health] system couldn’t be more fragmented and chaotic. And yet the truth is, people still get better,” said Duckworth, who is now a psychiatrist. “They find ways. Is it love? Is it faith? Is it lithium? Is there a certain kind of psychotherapy? Is it giving to others? It’s different for different people.”

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