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Mental illnesses are treatable disorders of the brain. Left untreated, they are among the most disabling and destructive illnesses. Recovery is possible with proper treatment and sometimes medication.

What is Mental Health Recovery?

In mental health, recovery does not always refer to the process of complete recovery from a mental health problem in the way that we may recover from a physical health problem.

When people hear the word "recovery" they often interpret it in a traditional sense to mean "cure". Because of this, it can be difficult to see how recovery can apply to mental illness. In medicine, the term "recovery" is applied to long-term or chronic disorders such as diabetes, asthma, many physical disabilities, and substance abuse problems such as alcohol addiction. It is not meant to imply a cure, but rather refers to a return to full or partial functioning in most aspects of one's life. In a broad sense, to be "in recovery" refers to finding ways of resolving issues that arise in the course of having a mental illness and creating a more positive, meaningful, and satisfying way of life.

The recovery model aims to help people with mental health problems to look beyond mere survival and existence. It encourages them to move forward, set new goals and do things and develop relationships that give their lives meaning.

Recovery emphasizes that, while people may not have full control over their symptoms, they can have full control over their lives. Recovery is not about "getting rid" of problems. It is about seeing beyond a person's mental health problems, recognizing and fostering their abilities, interests and dreams.

Essential Ingredients in the Recovery Process

Acceptance: Acceptance of the diagnosis by the ill relative, family, and friends is essential for the process of recovery to begin. Acceptance is more likely to result in early intervention.

Early Intervention: Early intervention and early use of new medications lead to better medical outcomes for the individual. The earlier your ill relative is diagnosed and stabilized with treatment, the better the long-term prognosis.

Adherence to Treatment: Medication and therapy greatly aid in recovery. Although the benefits may not be completely obvious at first, following a treatment plan will significantly improve your ill relative's mental health.

Empowerment: Recovery is aided when people are given the support and education to make their own decisions and to exercise their “right to try”.

Holistic Approach: Recovery encompasses the varied aspects of an individual's life, including housing, employment, education, recreation, mental health and healthcare services, addictions treatment, spirituality, creativity, social networks, and community participation.

Strengths-Based Approach: Recovery focuses on validating and building upon the strengths, capabilities, coping skills, resiliency, and inherent worth of individuals. This involves a constant awareness that "you are not your illness."

Responsibility: Outcomes are improved when people take personal responsibility to pursue and sustain recovery to the greatest extent possible. This involves taking steps towards identifying and achieving personal goals and can include creating a Ulysses Agreement or Advance Plan which will enable your ill relative to state what they would like to happen in the event that they become ill or relapse.