Dear readers: To talk together about recovery for those struggling with mental illness we need a definition of recovery that does justice to the magnitude of the journey. Here is one such definition –
“…..a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills, and / or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even within the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.”
Recovery from Mental Illness: The Guiding Vision of the Mental Health Service System in the 1990s. William A. Anthony, Ph.D Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 1993, 16(4), 11–23.
I encourage you to read the entire article from which the definition above was taken. What the article has to say about recovery was ground-breaking when first published in 1993. It is a fine resource as well today.
If the definition above is the vision, we need guide to follow it: 100 Ways to support recovery. A guide for mental health professionals, Second Edition, 2012.
The guide’s author is Mike Slade – Professor Mike Slade – Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Health Services Research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London. I found plenty of material in the report helpful to anyone wanting to learn about recovery and eager to help a family member or friend.
Professor Slade clarifies that recovery is a word with two meanings. Clinical recovery “is an idea that has emerged from the expertise of mental health professionals, and involves getting rid of symptoms, restoring social functioning, and in other ways ‘getting back to normal’”. “[Personal recovery] … is an idea that has emerged from the expertise of people with the lived experience of mental illness and means something different to clinical recovery.”
Most mental health services, Mike Slade acknowledges, are currently organized around meeting the goal of clinical recovery. Yet most mental health policy around the world increasingly emphasizes support for personal recovery. His guide aims to support the transition to ongoing personal recovery, framing the process by identifying common tasks undertaken by persons in recovery:
Recovery task 1: “The first task of recovery is developing a positive identity outside of being a person with a mental illness.”
Recovery task 2: “The second recovery task involves developing a personally satisfactory meaning to frame the experience which professionals would understand as mental illness.”
Recovery task 3: “Self-managing the mental illness.” Mental illness becomes ONE of life’s challenges.
Recovery task 4: “Developing valued social roles.” Roles valued by the individual with mental illness and by the greater social circle/setting/society.
I was able to see each of those four tasks in the flow of my own recovery ……………….