The Recovery Movement

Community Mental Health Services, Recovery, Dublin

The present recovery approached has emerged from the writings of people who used services in the 1980s in the USA and in the 1990s in England (When the history of the recovery movement is reviewed it some of the ideas and philosophy was present in some practices of the Quakers in the late eighteenth century England). Many wrote about coping with symptoms, getting better, and regaining a satisfactory sense of personal identity that was not defined by illness experience. In one such account, Patricia Deegan compared her recovery from schizophrenia with the recovery of her friend with who had been paralised with an accident. Both experienced anguish, despair and hopelessness. Eventually both learned to manage their difficulties and achieve meaningful goals. Deegan became a research psychologist, teacher and trainer and her friend qualified to work with other disabled people. Click here to read the full version of her 1988 article.

A wide range of influential others have greatly encouraged others with their personal accounts of illness and recovery and include mental health professionals. The accumulated wisdom and witness from such personal accounts helped form the foundation of the recovery approach.

But now I look back on it with a real sense of achievement. It was a 24-carat crack-up and I’m proud of the fact I got through it, rebuilt myself, did ok as a journalist again, and went on to do what I do now. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done in this job without believing what I believe very strongly, and being tough-minded, focussed, mentally and physically fit. I feel the breakdown and the recovery played a big part in all that.

Alastair Campbell, the British prime minister’s director of communications and strategy in Sunday Times Magazine, Sunday 6th January 2002

Definition of Recovery

The most widely cited definition of personal recovery in mental illness was written by Bill Anthony now a professor emeritus at the Boston Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation in the USA. In 1993, he wrote that recovery is described by consumer/survivors/clients as:

'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 with limitations caused by the 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 involves much more than recovery from the illness itself.'
(Recovery from mental illness: the guiding vision of the mental health system in the 1990s, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 16(4), April 1993, 11-23.)