Uncovering Recovery: The Resistible Rise of Recovery and Resilience
David Harper, Ewen Speed
De-Medicalizing Misery II
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 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
... should be recovered from these concepts. We focus on three key issues, i) individualization, ii) the persistence of a deficit model, and iii) collective approaches to recovery. Through documentary analysis we consider these issues across third sector organizations, 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 individualize what are social problems. Secondly, these discourses, despite being seen as inherently liberatory are conceptually dependent on a notion of deficit in that talk of "positives" and "strengths" requires the existence of "negatives" and "weaknesses" for these concepts to make sense. 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 and political aspects of emotional distress. Drawing on the work of Fraser, we use this critique to characterize "recovery" as a "struggle for recognition," founded on a model of identity politics which displaces and marginalizes 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.