On Recovery

Severe mental illness is not sexy. It is not clearly understood. It is not something that can be packaged or managed with a magic pill or injection. It is not predictable. It comes with a heavy cost to society. But isn’t this true with many other major diseases? So why is it so hard to wrap our minds around the concept of recovery in mental health? Other disorders can identify when someone is in recovery or remission. Are we so certain we are broken and beyond repair?

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has been conversing with consumers and providers to come up with a new definition of recovery that would be relevant to the mental health community. “The new working definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and Substance Use Disorders is as follows:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Notice that this is a “process of change.”

Looking at the definition is empowering, but also can be daunting if you don’t know where to start.  The goal is to improve both “health and wellness” as they go together. You cannot separate your body from your mind.

We are to strive to be as involved in our own care and life plan as possible and live life to the fullest.  Realistic changes are often made by baby-steps.  Understanding how to integrate recovery in your life is a vital first step.

Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has identified four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

  • Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically       and emotionally healthy way;
  • Home: a stable and safe place to live;
  • Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family care-taking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and
  • Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

The authors continue by expounding on the “Guiding Principles of Recovery.”  These are ten aspects to guide our way.  By understanding them, we are in a position to work with supporters and care givers to create our own baby-steps and wrap our minds around hope for the present and action plans for the future.

It is well worth a look at the site to see more about how you can apply this concept of recovery in your life.  You can find further information at

http://blog.samhsa.gov/2011/12/22/samhsa%E2%80%99s-definition-and-guiding-principles-of-recovery-%E2%80%93-answering-the-call-for-feedback/