Uncovering recovery: the resistible rise of recovery and resilience

Article


Harper, D. and Speed, E. 2012. Uncovering recovery: the resistible rise of recovery and resilience. Studies in Social Justice. 6 (1), pp. 9-25.
AuthorsHarper, D. and Speed, E.
Abstract

Discourses of recovery and resilience have risen to positions of dominance in the mental health field. Models of recovery and resilience enjoy purchase, in both policy and practice, across a range of settings from self-described psychiatric survivors through to mental health charities through to statutory mental health service providers. Despite this ubiquity, there is confusion about what recovery means. In this article we problematize notions of recovery and resilience, and consider what, if anything, should be recovered from these concepts. We focus on three key issues, i) individualisation, ii) the persistence of a deficit model, and iii) collective approaches to recovery. Through documentary analysis we consider these issues across third sector organisations, and public and mental health policy.
Firstly, definitional debates about recovery reflect wider ideological debates about the nature of mental health. The vagueness of these concepts and implicit assumptions inherent in dominant recovery and resilience discourses render them problematic because they individualise what are social problems. Secondly, recovery has developed in a way that continues to draw on a notion of deficit, for example see recovery, as championed by Anthony and others, does not do this. Instead the emphasis is placed on turning negatives into positives. We argue that this does little to substantially transform dominant understandings of psychological distress. Thirdly, these issues combine to impact upon the progressive potential of recovery. It comes to be seen as an individualistic experiential narrative accompaniment to medical understandings where the structural causes of distress are obscured. This in turn impacts upon the potential for recovery to be used to explore more collective, political aspects of emotional distress.
Drawing on the work of Fraser, we use this critique to characterise ‘recovery’ as a ‘struggle for recognition’, founded on a model of identity politics which displaces and marginalises the need for social, political and economic redistribution to address many of the underlying causes of emotional distress. We conclude by stating that it is only when the collective, structural experiences of inequality and injustice are explicitly linked to processes of emotional distress that recovery will be possible.

Keywordsmental health; recovery; resilience
JournalStudies in Social Justice
Journal citation6 (1), pp. 9-25
ISSN1911-4788
Year2012
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-ND
Web address (URL)http://hdl.handle.net/10552/1634
Publication dates
Print26 Jun 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited26 Jun 2012
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/85yxx

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