Modern theories of mental health would have us believe that a schizophrenic or manic depressive patient's brain is malfunctioning. I wish to advance the position that it is functioning ok, albeit in exceptional circumstances.
By exceptional I mean a little like exceptions in modern programming languages: a fuse has been blown and something must be done. Mental disorder emerges as the brain discards (or at least quarantines) mental functioning which needs to change, in search of a root change from where to begin relearning.
Once this relearning begins, the brain is childlike, since it is facing similar circumstances to when it had to learn to walk and talk for the first time. It makes the same guesses, explores boundaries, and so on, just as its basic wiring would have it learn as a child.
The adult brain is less plastic, but during disorder this plasticity increases, and with the resulting softness comes an inability to support the mental patterns of old, and so they fall.
What mental health patients need, most critically, and may need for years, is a suitable environment to cultivate such relearning, and drugs most often just get in the way, creating more mess than they solve.
From the outside, however, appearances may be very deceptive: outer apparent calm may coincide with inner turmoil, and it is the inner experience which is key. The trouble is that the patient and the external world must relearn how to communicate, and for this to happen, the external world must know that this problem exists, and that it is central to recovery.