Wellness: A Matter of Life and Death

Posted on March 8, 2011

Kenneth J. Dudek
President, Fountain House

Last week, a member of Fountain House died. He was only 31.

Most likely, he died of heart complications. He was so young, and yet, like many others with serious mental illness, he had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
He lived on Social Security, probably receiving between $600 to $1000 dollars per month - not much compared to the cost of living in New York City. Like most single people in New York he ate out frequently, but because of his income that meant a lot of fast food – inexpensive, but overloaded with salt, carbohydrates and fat.

Between managing his illness and making ends meet on his limited budget, most of his time was spent trying to figure out how to survive from month to month. The thought of preparing balanced meals or exercising never occurred to him. He had learned to live with his mental illness, but his bad health killed him.

Research demonstrates that people living with serious mental illness have dramatically shortened life spans, mostly due to preventable co-occurring medical disorders. A focus on wellness is not optional; it is an integral part of a person’s recovery.

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