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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration


Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)

 

Frank Scassellati's Story

Frank ScassellatiI have had a mental illness since childhood, in the early 1960s; but I received no treatment for it due to a lack of mental health services for children and adolescents in my area. (Such services were not created until 1974.) I suffered through a childhood of mental anguish, complicated by ridicule from other children. I sat catatonic at my desk in school, afraid to relate to the other children, not understanding the mental illness that ravaged my mind.

In high school, still without treatment, I eventually began drinking in a desperate attempt to ease my pain. It only made things worse, increasing my psychoses and intensifying psychotic episodes that terrified me.

I entered college in 1972, still not understanding my illness. In the winter of 1975, my mental anguish grew so severe that I tried to commit suicide. I ended up in the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital, where I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and began to receive treatment. I finally began to understand the bizarre world of hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and psychotic episodes that is called schizophrenia.

I started doing research to better understand the illness; I was determined to overcome and recover from it. This process continues to this day.

Then came a turning point: I became involved with my local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). I attended NAMI support groups and began to go to state and national conventions, where I met many other individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses and we shared our experiences of recovery.

My association with NAMI led me to The Advocacy Alliance (an affiliate of the National Mental Health Association), another wonderful organization that helps people who have mental illnesses. I began doing volunteer work there, and this has better enabled me to reintegrate into the community. The wonderful staffs at both organizations have helped me a great deal. My fiancée, whom I met at the Advocacy Alliance, has also been diagnosed with schizophrenia; we try to help each other in our recovery, and we have hopes for a bright future.

I still have schizophrenia but I have recovered to the point where I am able to function within the community, and I try to pass along this hope of recovery to others. I have become involved with my local Community Support Program, a coalition of people with mental illnesses, family members, and mental health professionals; and the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA), a statewide organization of people who have mental illnesses, in order to help others like myself.

Recently, I was hired by PMHCA as Northeast Pennsylvania Coordinator for "Leadership In Recovery" programs that will be taking place for the next three years. I really love this job, and I am trying to apply my experiences in recovery from mental illness to my work. I also do educational presentations about mental illness at local colleges, facilities for children and adolescents with mental illness, and local mental health counseling centers. These presentations are sponsored by the Advocacy Alliance.

A diagnosis of mental illness should not be a barrier to achieving one's goals. Anyone can recover: It just takes hard work and a willingness to develop the coping skills necessary to overcome mental illness.

Frank Scassellati


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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.