What Mental Health Recovery Means

Recovery in mental health is not used in the same manner in which one typically views recovery. Webster defines recovery as:

1) a return to normal conditions

2) an act, instance, process, or period of recovering

3) Something gained or restored in recovering

4) The act of obtaining usable substance from unusable sources, as with waste materials

These definitions are problematic. What is a normal condition? When is one done with recovering? What is gained or restored? And how could you even begin to refer the human mind as unusable?

Consequently, the concept of mental recovery was coined by Pricilla Ridgeway as “an ongoing process of self directed healing and transformation.” The Mental Health Center of Denver, or MHCD, the home of some of the leading researchers in the mental health recovery field, go on to say that recovery is a non-linear process where one progresses from lower to higher levels of fulfillment in a number of metrics. In short, recovery is a sliding scale process driven by the consumer, rather than scheduled out by the mental healthcare practitioner.

Thus essentially, recovery from a mental illness is not equated to being cured, it means living a meaningful, fulfilling life regardless of, rather than in spite of, one’s mental condition. Interestingly enough, cultural differences do exist in the meaning of what ‘recovery’ and mental health recovery actually is. New Zealand, which recently mandated all mental health facilities adopt a recovery-based approach, views recovery as a merging between psychoanalysis and cultural recognition. The U.K. agrees with New Zealand in believing that recovery is a systematic concept (thus including one’s environment and culture), rather than an incidental one. The United States tends to focus more on the number of people coming in than those going out, thus the notion of recovery is still rather unformed in the region

The Mental Health Center of Denver, through their Research and Evaluation’s Department, has further developed psychometric tools for quantifiably testing a mental healthcare consumer’s progress through the mental health recovery process. These instruments have been substantiated by biostatisticians and psychological/psychiatric expertise, thus are generally held in good standing.