Why do we say Recovery in mental health? Why aren’t we Colorado Cured or Colorado Recovered?
For some people, the word recovery can be confusing. Many times people associate the word only with substance use treatment. But, the word has also been important for recovery from mental health disorders.
September was National Recovery Month and SAMSHA says, “National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery.”
It is important to tell stories of recovery and reshape beliefs around how we see mental health disorders. Mental Health Colorado has covered many personal stories that are hope-inspiring and uplifting. For great recovery stories visit: https://www.mentalhealthcolorado.org/
There are often different takes on the word depending on the context and population. Professionals use the word clinically, advocates use the word as part of a grassroots movement, and people who struggle with substance use disorders use the term to describe a state of being in sobriety.
In the 1930’s Alcoholics Anonymous began using the term to describe sobriety among a fellowship of participants. Recovery is now an integral part of how a person describes and connects with living a good life without substances and the concept is closely related to how recovery is viewed in mental health.
In the late 1980s and ’90s, the recovery movement in mental health began. It was led by mental health consumers/clients/ex-patients who wanted to see a change in the perception of what successful mental health treatment means. Without this client-led movement, treatment may have looked much different than it does today.
Before the movement, patients with serious mental health disorders and their families were oftentimes given a poor prognosis. There is a dark history in the US and other parts of the western world of patients being treated poorly, institutionalized, and stigmatized. There was no focus on improving the quality of life nor any hope for recovery from their illness.
The mental health recovery movement really expanded the perception of what people who live with serious disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are capable of.
The CEO of Colorado Recovery, Ruth Arnold, worked on a Recovery Philosophy roll-out in the early 2000s while working at Mental Health Partners in Boulder, Colorado. The Boulder community still refers to this manifesto when they are thinking about how to help people.
Here is what was developed in partnership with clinicians, clients, family members, and community:
Recovery in mental health can be described as the intentional constant pursuit of living life to its fullest. It is a process that is unique to each individual and grows out of a culture of support and the gradual awareness of one’s own personally meaningful roles and goals. It is the awakening and realization of dreams through the process of healing and the exercising of personal power to secure a full and satisfying life. We believe that recovery is not only possible, it is probable, because of the strength of the human spirit and the amazing resiliencies within every person.
Ruth personally believes that “recovery is the pursuit of a meaningful life beyond one’s mental health diagnosis and learning to manage the mental health symptoms sufficiently to allow one to get on with living. To stop seeing one’s role in life as ”a person with a mental illness or mental health condition”, but instead to see the possibility of a role beyond that and in spite of that, and developing sufficient perseverance to pursue it.”
It is important to think of recovery as an active state or process, a doing rather than a one-time event. Stay in the moment, know that wherever someone may be in that journey, it is cumulative knowledge that is gained from setbacks and struggles. At Colorado Recovery we are blessed to witness and be a part of the journey. People who live with mental health challenges are some of the most empathetic and resilient people around and they have many gifts to bring to the world.