For some time, there has been considerable discussion about mental health “recovery.” For many consumers and family members, the idea of “recovery” was controversial. It was thought that for many people with serious mental illness, a state of stability was the best that could be hoped for. Fortunately, we now know that individuals can progress beyond mere stability.
A great deal of time was spent trying to define recovery from mental illness. I believe that for all disabilities, recovery can be defined as a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life in spite of limitations caused by the illness. Recovery means resuming a meaningful life without being defined by your illness. You are a person – not a person with mental illness. This means that recovery is very unique to every individual.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has tried to define the fundamental components of recovery. Three components center around Hope, Empowerment and Spirituality (subject of next blog). Having a sense of hope is absolutely required to begin recovery. The individual, family and support system must all believe that recovery is possible. This gives the individual the empowerment necessary to take over control of one’s life including the mental illness.
In order to maximize recovery, it is important to learn as much as possible about your illnesses, medications, evidence-based practices and available resources. Engagement with a treatment provider and finding the right amount of medication is essential. Medication-free is not the needed goal for recovery. This also opens up the individual’s ability to develop support groups, self-help and peer support. Peers who understand your experiences can serve as an important component for recovery.
And finally, work completes treatment and reinforces recovery. Employment allows us to define ourselves to others, not by our illness, but by “what we do.” Employment and meaningful activities boosts ones’ confidence, esteem and values. True recovery can only be achieved through employment and meaningful activities to regain a positive identity, including a sense of purpose and value.
The road to recovery from mental illness is possible, is hard work and is worthwhile.