About Recovery

Every person’s experience of mental health problems will be unique as will their recovery. Some individuals may experience only one episode of a mental health problem and never experience another for the rest of their lives, but others may have multiple experiences, of varying degrees, throughout their lives.

Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life as defined by each person, whether or not they have symptoms.

It is about having control over one’s own life. Each individual’s recovery, like his or her experience of the mental health problems, is a unique and deeply personal process. It is important to be clear that there is no right or wrong way to recovery and that recovery is a journey.

There are a number of key components which are important to recovery, with hope being one of the most important.

It is by having the hope that things can get better, and the courage to move on, that we can learn about what works for us and gain control of our difficulties, so that we can pursue opportunities and live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Recovery is a unique process for each individual. It is about staying in control of your life despite experiencing mental health problems.

Putting recovery into action means focusing care on supporting recovery and building the resilience of people with mental health problems, not just on treating or managing their symptoms.

There is no single definition of the concept of recovery for people with mental health problems, but the guiding principles are hope, control and opportunuity.

Hope – the belief that it is possible for someone to regain a meaningful life, despite serious mental illness. Recovery is often referred to as a process, outlook, vision, conceptual framework or guiding principle.

The recovery process:

  • provides a holistic view of mental illness that focuses on the person, not just their symptoms
  • believes recovery from severe mental illness is possible
  • is a journey rather than a destination
  • does not necessarily mean getting back to where you were before
  • happens in ‘fits and starts’ and, like life, has many ups and downs
  • calls for optimism and commitment from all concerned
  • requires a well organised system of support from family, friends or professionals
  • requires services to embrace new and innovative ways of working.

The recovery model aims to help people with mental health problems to look beyond mere survival and existence. It encourages them to move forward, set new goals and do things and develop relationships that give their lives meaning.

Control – Recovery emphasises that, while people may not have full control over their symptoms, they can have full control over their lives. Recovery is not about ‘getting rid’ of problems. It is about seeing beyond a person’s mental health problems, recognising and fostering their strengths, interests and dreams. Mental illness and social attitudes to mental illness often impose limits on people experiencing ill health. Health professionals, friends and families can be overly protective or pessimistic about what someone with a mental health problem will be able to achieve. Recovery is about looking beyond those limits to help people achieve their own goals, dreams and aspirations.

It can be hard to take control of your recovery and there can be lots of things that get in the way. Many people tell that taking responsibility and finding a way to take the lead in their own recovery was important.

People who work in services can help this process by offering choices and sharing decisions.

Feeling more in control encouraged people to try new things out and “to do things even if they may go wrong.” They also recognised that everyone makes mistakes and bad choices and that this is okay.

People felt it was important to be allowed to “take a calculated risk with something and go for it.”

Some people talked about a realisation that they were letting symptoms control their lives and affect people around them.

We know that people can and do recover from even the most serious and long-term mental health problems. For some people the recovery process can be long slow and at times difficult but the reality is it can happen. The unique nature of the recovery process can make it hard to define but certain things come up frequently and these help us better understand what recovery means

  • Recovery is about living a satisfying and fulfilling life.
  • Recovery is about more than the absence of the symptoms of illness.
  • Some people describe themselves as being in recovery while still experiencing symptoms.
  • There can be lots of ups and downs during the recovery process – some people describe it as a journey.
  • For this reason people often talk about being in recovery rather than recovered.
  • Some people consider recovery as being ‘back to the way things were’ or back to ‘normal’ but for others recovery is more about discovering a new life or a new way of being.

Opportunity – links Recovery with social inclusion and therefore peoples’ participation in the wider society. People with mental health problems wish to be part of communities; to be a valued member of and contribute to those communities; and have access to the opportunities that exist within those communities. As part of allowing our community to have more opportunity the Nothern Trust encourage and support volunteers within their services.