A Sense of Identity Seems to Help Recovery from Mental Ill Health; Dr Michael Coffey Explains What Research Is Being Carried out into the Recovery from Mental Illness

Article excerpt

THERE is a well-known statistic that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point during our lives.

When you think of an average life-expectancy, and the range of challenges we will face across that time, one wonders how that number isn't higher.

Nevertheless, for most of us these experiences are shortlived and we get better and move on with our lives.

For a portion of people, however, their condition is so serious that it endures and complicates all aspects of their daily existence. These conditions are sometimes referred to as serious and enduring mental illnesses.

Many people who get categorised with these conditions receive help from mental health and social care services. For many years the outlook for them has been bleak, with little optimism that things might ever get better. More recently, however, it has been shown that a significant proportion of people actually recover and rebuild their lives, despite this gloom.

This idea of recovery challenges the pessimism that has surrounded these conditions.

Oddly, we don't know much about what it is that services do that can help this process, or how people themselves go about it.

It has been known for some time that identity - that is how we are known by ourselves and by others - is an important aspect of recovering from mental ill health.

In a recent project, I have found that people with these conditions build recovery by piecing together those aspects of identity that help them to integrate and once again be part of the communities they live in. …