Genevieve Smyth, Professional Affairs Officer – Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at COT, discusses mental health recovery
Recovery in mental health is a global movement generated and driven by people with mental health problems. It focuses on the need to have a meaningful, hopeful and active life. Occupational therapists promote Recovery because we have similar values which emphasise a social perspective of illness/disability and the importance of engagement in meaningful occupation and activity. In fact I would say that occupation is a key component of mental health Recovery.
Occupational therapists have unique expertise in occupation and can help promote active engagement in life for those who experience mental distress. They have been a crucial but under-recognised component in the promotion of peer support workers and Recovery Colleges, both vital elements of Recovery orientated services.
Yet is mental health Recovery disappearing? September saw the usual flurry of events, conferences and Ministerial speeches saying that finally, FINALLY mental health will see parity of esteem and will be treated equally alongside physical health care. Yet while this is admirable and long overdue I don’t think I’ve heard the “Recovery” word once.
Now this may mean that Recovery is so well embedded in services that we don’t need to talk about it anymore. Or it may be that people who use mental health services have finally persuaded mental health professionals to stop hijacking a movement that was theirs to start with. Or it may mean that fashions in policy come and go and Recovery has had its time. My discomfort comes from the knowledge that Recovery is NOT embedded in all mental health services around the United Kingdom, I suspect because at its heart, it’s just too radical a change. Occupational therapists want to be part of the complete transformation of how we approach mental health and well-being through participation in occupation. Let’s not throw Recovery, social inclusion or occupation out the window in our pursuit of parity of esteem.