It’s called a “turnaround moment.”
You discover there's hope. For the first time you realize there is Recovery from a serious mental illness. Even schizophrenia, if that’s your diagnosis. Even bipolar disorder.
It can be the most mind boggling realization you’ve ever had if, for years, you’ve been told, brainwashed, that you have a mental illness and it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain and you’re never going to get better and it’s chronic and there’s nothing you can do but manage it with drugs, like you would manage diabetes by injecting insulin. And it's a deteriorating state.
Then you discover Mental Health Recovery.
I just walked in the door after an exhausting day at the “International Recovery Perspectives: Action on Alternatives” conference. More than 340 people from all over North America gathered at the University of Toronto’s Hart House to engage with more than 40 speakers from Ireland, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Ghana, the US and all over Canada as they explored “critical and creative leading edge approaches” to Mental Health Recovery.
“There is hope for people in mental distress,” one of the conference organizers Brian McKinnon said. “Even for those who have been given a bleak prognosis."
Recovery is a different paradigm. It's not only a departure in many ways from the biomedical, mainstream medical model of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology, it's expanding all the time.
It's an exciting body of alternatives that question long-held, entrenched, yet unproven assumptions about mental illnesses:
• an alternative to the traditional, paternalistic mainstream medical model where doctors know best and their “patients” are treated as if they have no insight.
• an alternative to the same-old way governments fund and make policy decisions.
• a more critical, less complacent approach to problems within the medical model.
• access to more psychological supports and a re-integration of psychological training within psychiatry.
• Recovery-oriented peer-driven, diverse, responsive services that respect human rights and personal dignity.
There is a caveat. As empowering, user-friendly and effective as these alternatives are and can be, recovery is not simple or straightforward. It’s a different journey for everyone. Challenging for survivors, family members, and those working in the field.
“People struggle long and hard for personal recovery. Creating and sustaining alternative supports is an uphill-battle. Much of the good work is under appreciated and unsupported by mainstream mental health,” McKinnon said.
Stay tuned for more about this conference. My mind is spinning.