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The Next Frontier of Mental Health Treatment

Mental Health Recovery: It’s Real

I want to introduce you to a topic that may be the single most important idea for anyone affected by any form of mental distress or psychiatric diagnosis: the concept of Mental Health Recovery.

Recovery is so important because it directly addresses the underlying functioning that every mental illness disrupts. I believe that it is The Defining Tool and The Next Frontier of mental health treatment. Unfortunately, it is a severely underutilized treatment even though the only barriers to its use are lack of awareness and implementation.

The first time I heard the term recovery was during my psychiatric training. It was used in the discussion related to recovery from alcohol and other addictions. I use the term recovery much more broadly, to me, recovery not only relates to addiction, but to all forms of mental illness. I want everyone that has ever struggled with mental illness to be in mental health recovery!

Let’s Start by Defining “Recovery”

The term “recovery” means different things to different people, and there are actually several different definitions. I’ll use the one at the SAMHSA (National Agency for advocacy of mental health) website:

“A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Another definition is:

“The concept of recovery refers to a person diagnosed with a serious mental illness reclaiming his or her right to a safe, dignified, and personally meaningful and gratifying life in the community despite his or her psychiatric condition.”

That’s Great, But What Does That Mean?

It proposes that an individual doesn’t have to wait until the psychological stress is completely eliminated before beginning their journey into recovery. To see what I mean about not waiting to start your recovery, let’s compare mental health recovery to a medical form of recovery like a broken bone.

Physical Recovery is Real

You don’t lay in bed for weeks to months until the bone is healed. Recovery from a broken bone begins immediately after the break. Bones are aligned and then immobilized, and the body begins the healing process on a cellular level.

Within days, physical therapists assist with a range of motion and using devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches. A person then gradually increases their functioning until they eventually reach a full level of functioning.

So Too, Mental Health Recovery is Real

In depression, people tend to take a much less active role in immediate recovery, but it is just as necessary, even when the ability to function can be painfully exhausting. If you don’t, I have seen people completely retire into isolation and avoid functioning for decades - a most devastating result!

Waiting for your mental stress symptoms to go away before resuming regular daily and work tasks is like saying that you have to lay in bed for 6 weeks while your broken bone heals. You know that isn’t practical, as you would lose so much muscle mass from not using your body regularly. Complete immobility with a healing fracture would be detrimental to your health, so too with avoiding regular daily tasks and activities while healing from mental stress.

Therefore, I give you my definition of recovery: Living your life to the fullest in spite of mental illness.

So, get out there and get back to doing those things you have neglected, even if you don’t feel like it!

To your mental health,

Paul Rashid MD


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