Reshaping Mental Health Recovery to Combat Stigma
Recovery may not look as expected, and I believe reshaping mental health recovery can be a tool to combat mental health stigma. By challenging the perception we have of recovery, it may help people understand that mental health struggles don't necessarily go away. Reshaping mental health recovery can contribute to stopping the idea that we should associate mental health struggles with willpower, contagion, and other harmful notions brought on by stigma. There are two keys ways I see to do this.
Reshaping the Notion Mental Health Recovery Is Linear
I'd like to start by reshaping the notion that mental health recovery is linear. A linear progression suggests that recovery can only go straight forward, otherwise the person isn't recovering at all. Mental health struggles are often accompanied by varying symptomatic degrees, however.
Given that, to combat mental health stigma, reshape mental health recovery to see it as a process that's not a straight line. Personally speaking, I see my mental health recovery as a forward-moving process with peaks, plateaus, and valleys. I don't see periods of struggles as a step backward since I always have the tools and knowledge that helped me to progress to that point, so I'm not exactly at zero again. But that's me. Others may see recovery as an assortment of different shapes or pathways ("Why It's So Hard to Accept that Recovery Isn't Linear").
Recognizing this is an important part of understanding recovery because it reshapes mental health recovery and how we make strides in mental health struggles. A low after a good period doesn't mean someone has suddenly failed in recovery or is weak-willed, as mental health stigma might suggest. Rather, it's just a part of the process as a whole.
Reshaping the Notion Mental Health Recovery Equates to a Cure
Next, I'd like to reshape the notion that recovery equates to a cure. Similarly to seeing recovery as linear, this limits the perception of what recovery is and how people navigate it. Expecting that recovery equates to the individual being cured prevents a true understanding of the impact of mental illness and the course that recovery takes. It presents, instead, the idea that recovery is a binary with a start and a finish rather than seeing it as ongoing.
Suggesting that mental health recovery is only found in a cure feeds into the stigma that unless you're cured of the illness or free of the struggle, you're not whole again. Some stigma goes as far as to say that mental illnesses are a dangerous contagion that requires isolating those who are struggling to protect others from getting the sicknesses. But that's not the case at all.
By reshaping recovery to separate it from meaning a cure broadens the perspective of recovery and the way that people work through it. Just because someone isn't cured doesn't mean that they're not doing well or that there's something to be concerned about ("My Mental Illness Will Never Be Cured — And I'm Okay with That").
Redefining Mental Health Recovery Can Benefit Everyone
Everyone can benefit from redefining mental health recovery. It's funny because I often make the effort to redefine recovery for those struggling with mental health or mental illnesses to ease the struggle, and the disappointment felt when mental health symptoms increase or return. Taking this very step for myself has had an immensely positive impact on how I approach and handle my mental health struggles.
Then it dawned on me that reshaping recovery can be used to combat mental health stigma, too. A big part of challenging mental health stigma is changing the way that people perceive and treat mental health struggles and mental illnesses. It makes complete sense for recovery to be a part of that conversation. I have no doubt that there are other ways to reshape recovery to combat mental health stigma, and I encourage us all to continue exploring what those may be.
Barton, L. (2020, November 2). Reshaping Mental Health Recovery to Combat Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, February 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2020/11/reshaping-mental-health-recovery-to-combat-stigma
Author: Laura A. Barton
This is such a well-written and vitally important piece. I am so glad to come across discussions like this in Healthy Place. You make several critical points but this is one that is so important for everyone to hold onto: "A low after a good period doesn't mean someone has suddenly failed in recovery or is weak-willed, as mental health stigma might suggest. Rather, it's just a part of the process as a whole." I think this is a perspective that could be beneficial in many areas.
Thanks so much, Lizanne! It's always great to hear your feedback and insight into these topics. :) I'm glad you think this could be helpful to others, too.