What is Recovery?
There is no single, unifying, definition of recovery but people in recovery describe it as personal and unique to each individual. It’s about finding the best way for you to live a life of your choosing even with the challenges of mental health difficulties.
It can be summarised as Having ‘Somewhere to Live’ ‘Someone to Love’ Somewhere to Work and Something to Hope for (Norman Kirk,)
The Recovery Process
There are many frameworks that can be used to demonstrate the core principles of recovery. In 2011, Leamy et al conducted a review and found five complementary processes that people said were instrumental in their recovery. These are:
- Connectedness – This describes the sense of being positively connected to other people. This can occur through peer support or within the community. A sense of connectedness can also be fostered through positive healing relationships with health professionals.
- Hope – The importance of hope in recovery cannot be understated. There can be no change without the belief that a better life is both possible and achievable. This can often require a leap of faith and belief that recovery is possible.
- Identity – This refers to the maintenance or construction of a positive sense of self. It necessitates a rejection of stigma and stigmatising beliefs. It challenges us to see beyond the identity of service user.
- Meaning – We all find meaning and purpose in different ways so this can be deeply personal. For some it may overlap with their sense of connectedness, for others it may relate to their faith. Many find it when they begin to feel recognised as a valued and valuable piece of our common tapestry.
- Empowerment – This refers to one’s belief in one’s own capacity to take the wheel in recovery. Supporters can also empower us by emphasising choice, autonomy, and strength. We can empower ourselves by fostering what is known as a growth mindset – the belief that abilities are developed through dedication and hard work. This mindset is associated with a love of learning, growth and resilience.
These five aspects of personal recovery are sometimes known by the acronym CHIME and the whole as the CHIME framework.
What Supports Recovery
Recovery is often described as a journey; and with any journey, there is planning, preparation, roadmaps, signposts, pit stops and the occasional roadblock. Recovery has also been likened to a process of discovery, wherein the individual discovers new strengths and insight and of rediscovery whereby the individual reclaims aspects of themselves which they thought they had lost. Recovery is nurtured between people through healing and positive relationships. These can be supportive peer or professional relationships, family connections or close friendships.
What works well is people working together in partnership towards a common goal sharing knowledge, expertise and learning from each other.
What can I do to support myself in my recovery?
- Ask yourself the question – What do I need to do to help myself get better
- Realising the vulnerabilities associated with a mental health challenge.
- Knowing that recovery cannot be done for you and cannot happen without you. ‘You alone can do it but you cannot do it alone’ (Helen Keller or GROW).
- Realising and accepting that there are many people who want to support you, family members, carer, supporter, friends, peers including professional supports.
- Getting to know and working together with a range of care providers. It can be quite overwhelming when a lot of new information is being discussed. It might be a good idea to bring a notebook and pen. Ask questions and ask for clarification or explanations where there are things discussed that you don’t fully understand. Maybe prepare a list of questions before you attend a meeting.
- Finding out and learning what works for you, through education, peer support, community resources, and professional supports.
- Developing a personal plan of recovery for yourself together with your supporters and your clinical team. This recovery plan may support you in your wellness. Such as WRAP, Recovery Education, Peer support networks and groups.
- Working with your care providers to resolve past issues. Exploring new possibilities, identities and goals in your life.
As a Family member, professional or supporter what can I do?
The person you are supporting may be going through a unique process where old attitudes, meanings, goals, skills and roles are changing. This is an important journey for them. This change can be challenging for family and supporters. It is important to try to create room for these changes. This may mean you need to make some adjustments too. It can be easy to yearn for the ‘way things were’ but try to avoid asking that of the person you are supporting. This can be very difficult and painful for the person you are caring for as they are re-building a life that may look a little different. This may be an area you need external support with. Try to remember that you too are on a journey of recovery with the person you care for. It may not be exactly the path you envisioned or expected but there is hope. Recovery is possible for all of you.
Taking care of yourself as you support others in their recovery.
Educate yourself on mental health, recovery, treatments and self-care. Many community and government organisations provide this type of training. Your library can also be a great resource. The internet can be very useful but make sure to look for trusted sites. With the permission of the person you are supporting, speak with key workers and other relevant staff. Speak with the person experiencing mental health difficulties. Many family members and carers are afraid to say the wrong thing. The person who means so much to you is still there. Keep those lines of communication open.
Seek out a Family Peer Support Worker. This is a family member or carer with lived experience of supporting an individual who has had mental health difficulties. They can support you with information, emotional support and practical tips on navigating services.
It is really important to keep up your life as best you can. Try to continue with activities that interest you, work commitments and social activities. Try to look after your physical health. Get regular exercise and make sure to eat well. It can be very easy to forget these little things but they are essential to your wellbeing.
Take breaks when you can and try to do so without feeling guilty. It is not selfish to do this. It is essential. Reach out to friends and family. Reach out to professional support if you feel this would help. Your local GP can refer you to one to one supports. There are also a number of group supports available to families and carers of those experiencing mental health difficulties.
Resources that support Recovery in Practice
Recovery Colleges: The purpose of a Recovery College is to provide recovery orientated educational courses and workshops for people who experience mental health challenges, psychological distress, addiction and other challenges. People who access mental health/substance misuse and social inclusion services. Professionals and volunteers who support people on their recovery journey. Carers, supporters, friends and families. All are welcome. These courses are co-produced by people with lived experience of life challenges, family members, supporters and professionals.
The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is a plan, which teaches you how to keep yourself well. It helps you to identify and monitor your triggers and puts in place simple strategies to reduce or eliminate symptoms. The plan empowers you to take control of your physical and mental health and overall wellness.
UCC / MHI Mental Health in the Community (link within MHI website) The Certificate Mental Health in the Community is a new and innovative part time Programme designed for the community participant, to enhance the participant’s knowledge, skills and values in respect of mental wellbeing and recovery. The Programme explores what can work for people who experience mental health difficulties in supporting personal recovery.