Often, when I deal with health professionals and people in training, I get a range of responses when they learn that people can recover from mental disorder. Some are surprised, some intrigued by the concept since they’ve never heard it before and others oppose the idea of recovery with a vengeance. Why? What’s going on?

The concept of ‘Recovery’ from mental health problems has been around for hundreds of years, and yet for many people, the fact that people do recover from mental disorders is something that still surprises many people.

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the traditional model of psychiatry has explicitly stated that people do not recover. We now have oodles of research showing that this simply isn’t true. But nonetheless, the misconception persists.


Read more on mental health recovery…

The term ’Recovery’ has a long political, social, and clinical history, and its meaning has been much debated particularly over the last 10 to 20 years. I won’t go into the details now, (I could write a whole book on it, and probably will one day).

For now, what you need to know is that the term ‘Recovery’ has particular meanings within the mental health sector (even though many working in that sector still do not understand it fully).

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So here is my attempt to summarize some pretty complex ideas, into a few simple explanations of what ‘Recovery’ means to us here at the Workplace Mental Health Institute:

The Recovery approach adopted by the Workplace Mental Health Institute emphasizes and supports a person’s potential for recovery.

1. We believe Recovery is not only possible, it’s probable.

    1. Research over the last hundred years is showing that on average around 57% of people with severe mental health problems do recover. And the statistics are much better for people with less severe mental distress, those who get help early, and with newer therapeutic modalities now available.

2. We view mental distress as mostly psychological, social or spiritual in nature, not as an illness. Though there maybe physical consequences and interactions.

    1. Treatment therefore can come from a range of alternatives. We are all unique and one size does not fit all.

3. We focus on ability, not disability.

    1. A person experiencing mental distress has strengths, skills and personal characteristics despite their current emotional state. Research indicates that when people recover from a mental health problem, they are actually more productive at work than they were before becoming unwell, due to their increased resilience, and strategies learned.

4. We define Recovery as the absence of severe or abnormal distress, and the presence of positive emotions and wellness.

    1. Everyone has some stress from time to time, but if mental ill-health is defined as severe emotional distress, then recovery would mean the person no longer experiences that level of distress.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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