The meaning of mental health recovery for consumers, carers and nurses: a phenomenological exploration

2017-03-02T23:29:28Z (GMT) by Jacob, Sini
Mental health recovery is a prominent topic of discussion in western mental health settings. The concept and application of mental health recovery has been perceived as a guiding vision for many mental health services. However, there is an absence of input on mental health recovery from stakeholders such as carers and family members, service providers and policy makers globally, and a paucity of literature within the Australian context. The overall aim of this study was to explore the meaning and elements of mental health recovery as it is understood by consumers of mental health services (hereafter referred to as ‘consumers’), carers and mental health nurses within the Australian context. The four research objectives were to: (i) explore participants’ meaning and understanding of mental health recovery, (ii) identify the enablers to mental health recovery, (iii) identify any barriers to mental health recovery and (iv) explore participants’ views on recovery-oriented mental health services. This study utilised van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenological method. This approach was carefully considered due to the nature of the study and chosen due to its ability to provide an in-depth understanding of how participants’ viewed recovery from mental illness. Van Manen (1997b) describes phenomenology as the study of ‘essences’, the aim of which is to gain a deep understanding of the nature or meaning of the phenomenon. Twenty-six participants were selected from community mental health services of an Area Mental Health Service in Victoria, Australia. The participants comprised three cohorts: consumers, carers and nurses. The results indicated that the meaning attributed to the term ‘mental health recovery’ by consumers and nurses described, respectively, two major processes: an internal recovery resulting in the transformation of a person’s sense of self; and, an external recovery resulting in the manifestation of a changed self. Many of the carers’ views differed from the other two cohorts, as the former, in many instances, believed that recovery from mental illness was impossible. The study identified several themes in relation to factors seen to assist mental health recovery, such as optimism, safety, belongingness and choice. Factors viewed as impeding mental health recovery included control, rejection, necessity and struggle. Participants also suggested that a recovery-oriented mental health service promoted belongingness and autonomy of consumers and increased community awareness to combat the stigma associated with mental illness. In conclusion this study makes recommendations that have implications for education, clinical practice and future research.