National Recovery MonthSeptember 13, 2012 1:28 PM
This September is the 23rd annual observance of National Recovery Month. This year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: It’s Worth It,” references the fact that although recovery can be difficult, striving for recovery is a valuable and important undertaking. At BAMSI, we aim to help individuals who face mental health challenges through a variety of programs: Adult Day Treatment Center; Community Based Flexible Supports; Individual and Family Counseling; and the Parent Information Network, among others.
BAMSI focuses on recovery-centered treatment and meeting people where they are. Our Peer Specialists are individuals who have had their own lived mental health experience. They are able to not only empathize, but sympathize with individuals and serve as an example of someone who has attained their version of recovery. Mark Reedy, a Peer Specialist in BAMSI’s CBFS program, says it best: “I can step back 30 years ago and tell you what I’ve accomplished in the last 30 years, that it’s possible, recovery is real. Recovery can take place. Getting well can take place. It’s hard work, and it’s putting the time in, getting to know yourself, but recovery is real. You can get well and live a life that you dreamed of living.”
As we consider what recovery means during this month of awareness, it’s helpful to review a definition that was agreed upon by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD). The following is from the 2002 NASMHPD report:
The formal definition of the word recovery means “to get back: regain” or “to restore oneself to a normal state.”
The mental health consumer/survivor movement, which emerged in the early 1970s, gave voice to the notion of mental health recovery and the related emphasis on self-determination and empowerment. Though the term seldom appeared in the professional mental health literature until the late 1980s, it has been embedded in consumer writings, activities and research as early as the 1930s.
Recovery from mental illness can best be understood through the lived experience of persons with psychiatric disabilities. Ridgway (2001) analyzed four early consumer recovery narratives (Deegan, 1988; Leete, 1989; Lovejoy, 1982; Unzicker, 1989) with a constant comparative method to find common themes. These themes are listed below.
- Recovery is the reawakening of hope after despair.
- Recovery is breaking through denial and achieving understanding and acceptance.
- Recovery is moving from withdrawal to engagement and active participation in life.
- Recovery is active coping rather than passive adjustment.
- Recovery means no longer viewing oneself primarily as a mental patient and reclaiming a positive sense of self.
- Recovery is a journey from alienation to purpose.
- Recovery is a complex journey.
Recovery is not accomplished alone-it involves support and partnership. In a review of recovery literature, Ralph (2000b) identified the following four dimensions of recovery found in personal accounts:
- Internal factors: factors that are within the consumer, such as awareness of the toll the illness has taken, recognition of the need to change, insight as to how this change can begin, and the determination it takes to recover;
- Self-managed care: an extension of the internal factors in which consumers describe how they manage their own mental health and how they cope with the difficulties and barriers they face;
- External factors: include interconnectedness with others, the supports provided by family, friends, and professionals, and having people who believe that they can cope with, and recover from, their mental illness; and
- Empowerment: a combination of internal and external factors-where internal strengths are combined with interconnectedness to provide self-help, advocacy, and caring about what happens to ourselves and to others (Ralph, 2000b).