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Dr. Margaret S. Chisolm


Professor, Psychiatrist, Author of

Winner of the 2022 Silver Nautilus Award!

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FROM SURVIVE TO THRIVE: Living Your Best Life with Mental Illness

by Margaret S. Chisolm MD, FAMEE, FACP, FAAP | Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021

ISBN 9781421441580 (hardcover) $22.95
ISBN 9781421441603 (ebook) $22.95

Press & Interviews

For a copy of the book and to interview Dr. Chisolm, please contact Kathryn Marguy, Publicity Manager, Johns Hopkins University Press,

What's holding you back? Learn how to take the steps needed to get to a place where you are happier, more productive, and more at peace.

Are you struggling with personal problems, a mental health condition, or addiction? Are you looking to permanently improve your well-being and happiness? If you’d like to lead a fuller, more satisfying life—or help a mentally ill loved one—this book is for you.

In From Survive to Thrive, Dr. Margaret S. Chisolm, a psychiatrist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, describes a tried-and-true plan to help anyone grappling with life’s challenges learn how to flourish. Dr. Chisolm does not define health as the mere absence of illness. She wants you to be able to lead the best life possible—to thrive! In down-to-earth prose, Dr. Chisolm provides insight into how readers can cultivate healthy habits and more positive reactions to life’s provocations, choosing not to allow past life circumstances or a disease state to define their well-being. She also

  • Introduces the four perspectives through which all mental distress should be examined: disease, dimensional, behavior, and life story
  • Describes the four pathways associated with well-being: family, work, education, and community
  • Includes fascinating stories from her own clinical (and personal) experience featuring real people who found fulfillment by embracing these perspectives and pathways
  • Supplements detailed, step-by-step advice with interactive elements, including self-assessments and self-reflection exercises
  • Incorporates graphic elements to illustrate important lessons

This upbeat guide is the first to detail evidence-based principles for improving well-being in those with mental illness.

Press & Media

Interview: Coping with a Death to Mental Illness

Have you lost a beloved loved one to mental illness? On this show psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Chisolm shares with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heid how she found hope after a battle with depression and the loss of both her brother and her cousin to suicide. She is the author of From Survive to Thrive: Living Your Best Life with Mental Illness.

Dr. Margaret Chisolm Of Johns Hopkins University: “Get religion”

Believe it or not, studies have suggested causal links between engagement in a religious community and happiness and life satisfaction, as well as improved mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, close social relationships, and other aspects of a flourishing life.

The Arts, Humanities and its Relation to Medicine with Dr. Meg Chisolm

Dr. John Rhee speaks with Dr. Meg Chisolm about the role of the arts in medical education.

Recovering the Soul of Psychiatry: A Conversation with Johns Hopkins’s Dr. Margaret Chisolm

“I want to give people hope, people living with mental illness as well as family members of people living with mental illness, that not only can they survive their illness, but they can also reach their greatest potential. Sometimes, in fact, they reach their greatest potential not despite the illness, but because of the illness.”

From Survive to Thrive

We all want to live our lives to the fullest potential, but sometimes it’s hard! Mental illness, depression and just being human can wear on our ability to thrive in this life. Listen to today’s episode for tips on how to go from merely surviving to thriving!

Evidence-based advice from a seasoned physician

Even before the COVID pandemic, nearly one in five American adults was dealing with a mental illness of one form or another. Their attendant struggles ripple outward into the lives of family and friends. Serious mental health conditions run high among unhoused and incarcerated populations: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 37% of inmates in state and federal prisons have a diagnosed mental illness. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.

And then the coronavirus struck, exacerbating social isolation and economic insecurity. Anecdotal and preliminary data suggest a widespread blow to mental health. A CDC survey from June 2020, for instance, reported double the pre-pandemic rates of anxiety or depression, new or increased substance use, and stress-related symptoms.

But psychiatrist Margaret Chisolm, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, insists mental illness need not define people nor consign them to a life on the margins. History provides examples of artists, writers, and visionaries (such as Dr. Martin Luther King) who have pursued their full potential despite addiction, depression, eating disorders, and other serious conditions. Dr. Chisolm has seen many patients manage their illnesses and soar. She calls this flourishing—a journey toward satisfaction, happiness, and financial security.

Dr. Chisolm has gathered insights from decades of clinical and life experience into From Survive to Thrive: Living Your Best Life with Mental Illness, an interactive guidebook for patients and their family members—or just about anyone—searching for a path toward greater well-being. Among her observations:

  • Successful treatment considers the whole person. Reducing people with mental health conditions to “diseased brains” or “imbalanced chemical profiles” ignores the important role of our unique histories and personalities.
  • Everyone experiences periods of “demoralization,” but what can bog us down—or set us free—is the story we tell ourselves about those turbulent times. Human beings make sense of life’s chaos by imposing a narrative, with a setting, a sequence of events, and an outcome. If that story has led to a defeating explanation of circumstances or events in our lives, we can “rescript” it with more positive and uplifting interpretations.
  • Although people may not be able to change their temperament, they can control how they react to their feelings. All of us are born wired with differing levels of neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. These remain fairly stable as we age. But when we can recognize who we are (“the gift of individuality”) and what provokes us, we can avoid unhelpful responses and move closer to flourishing.
  • Mental health professionals best serve a patient when they hold off on diagnostic labeling until they understand that person as an individual. Information gathering should include a detailed history; conversations with the patient’s friends, family, and other care providers; a comprehensive mental status exam; and observation before interpretation.
  • Some mental conditions require professional treatment and medication, but we can all benefit from “metaphorically kicking ourselves in the rear.” Nature and nurture contribute to behavior. Although we can’t undo biology and history, we can make good, commonsense choices: to keep learning, working, and connecting with family (of any kind) and community. One good choice often leads to another.

“Into each life, some rain must fall,” wrote poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. As Chisolm notes, rare are the individuals who find their life perfect. “Most of us are works in progress.” But we all have the power to act and, with reasonable expectations, to reach our goals

Margaret S. Chisholm

Dr. Margaret S. Chisolm,

Margaret S. Chisolm is Vice Chair for Education, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; and professor of Medicine, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She directs the Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing, which fosters a humanistic clinical approach to patient care.
Systematic Psychiatric Evaluation Chisolm

Other books by Dr. Chisolm – SYSTEMATIC PSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION: A Step-by-Step Guide to Applying The Perspectives of Psychiatry

by Margaret S. Chisolm MD, FAMEE, FACP, FAAP | Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012


Press & Interviews

For a copy of the book and to interview Dr. Chisolm, please contact Kathryn Marguy, Publicity Manager, Johns Hopkins University Press,

© Copyright 2021 Margaret S. Chisolm