AN ALTERNATIVE PARADIGM
Promotion of a recovery approach offers the opportunity for an alternative framework for working with individuals who have experienced enduring mental health problems, one in tune with current promotion of personalisation and self-determination. It is important however that both individuals and professionals are able to access clear descriptions of the approach and of what it entails its strengths and its weaknesses.
Adoption of a recovery approach has implications for how professionals perceive their roles, for their interactions with individuals, and for their professional training. The authors of the report suggest that ‘the role of a facilitator of person-centred approaches to wellness rather than an authority in mental health problems appears to be more conducive to a recovery oriented approach’ (p158). In common with aspects of the personalisation agenda, the focus is on a ‘strengths’ approach.
A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
A danger of recovery narratives is that they can be used to highlight individual anecdotes without reference to the totality of the individual’s experience. This study is useful in identifying that individual elements may be necessary for recovery but are not in themselves sufficient. As detailed there are six individual prerequisites and six external factors which appear common to successful recovery accounts.
Much rhetoric is spoken around notions of community well being and collective responsibility. The importance for recovery of both social networks and of positive attitudes and support from the wider community and workplace highlights in a very practical way the contribution that the broad network of individuals within a community can make towards positive outcomes.
The essential nature of the recovery approach – that it does not necessarily denote the absence of traditional symptoms – needs to be both recognised and promoted through mental health campaigns. In particular the contribution of developing a positive identity to an individual’s recovery should be emphasised, together with the strategies that may assist in uncovering this identity.
STRATEGIES FOR ENGAGEMENT
Recovery narratives report the benefits that individuals experience from interacting with others and from making a contribution to goals outwith themselves. Such engagement may take a variety of different forms and the role of support professionals should be to assist in identifying and accessing alternative routes to engagement and in determining the strategies that may enable continued participation.
Individual narratives demonstrate how recovery can often be thwarted by the challenges presented by housing or financial difficulties. Support systems need to appreciate the inter-related nature of such issues and to acknowledge that treating individual areas in isolation is unlikely to yield lasting benefit.
Progression to recovery requires a rejection of the stigma associated with mental illness and an acceptance of the ability to live with the disabilities associated with the illness. Campaigns such as the successful see me programme in Scotland can assist in promoting an inclusive environment.