There have been many discussions about the concept of recovery and whether someone can fully recover from a mental illness. Some believe that once a mental illness is diagnosed the individual is doomed to a life of difficulty, while others believe that recovery is possible and that we need to focus on what someone is capable of doing instead of limitations because of their diagnosis. At AMI-Quebec, we are guided by the ‘recovery model’, meaning that a full and satisfying life is possible despite mental illness. Our programs are designed with this vision in mind. An important component of the recovery process is the social aspect, and we would like to explore these socio-cultural factors and how they impact an individual’s recovery.
Up until the mid-seventies, and before the birth of the recovery model, many practitioners believed that someone diagnosed with a mental illness was ill-fated to live a life of challenges with various symptoms, unable to contribute to society like their peers with no mental illness. Sarah Lyon from VeryWellMind explains that this mindset was especially tied to those with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder. But, as she further explains, many studies debunked this way of thinking. The emerging recovery model promoted more autonomy and trust in the diagnosed individual, and as Alain Topor, Inger Beate Larsen and Tore Dag Bøe from Mad in America put it, the recovery model gives people agency and recognizes their capabilities.
The recovery model has several facets that contribute to an individual’s recovery; they include financial stability and work satisfaction, but also good relationships, community, and social inclusion. Whether it be maintaining close relationships with friends or family, or meeting new people, these connections are important in maintaining a good support system. When such support is available, the (diagnosed) individual feels less alone; strengthened coping skills help with their recovery.
Maintaining a social life, whether by talking to someone every day or once a week, allows a person to feel less alone and less isolated. One great way to maintain such social support is to attend support groups. Sharing similar experiences with other participants helps individuals to learn about themselves, learn to listen, and also to give and receive advice. This increases a sense of hope that things can and will get better. A sense of belonging that comes with attending these groups also aids in the recovery process.
Having someone in your life who believes in your ability to recover, whether a support group member or someone in your close circle of friends and family, is crucial in the recovery process. With this, the individual gains a sense of empowerment that helps them live a better life. This is why the social aspect of recovery is important, because if someone else believes you can recover, you can believe it too.
– Gabrielle Lesage
AMI-Quebec offers support groups for various needs. For more information, please click here.