A review of mental health recovery programs in select industrialized countries has given Canada praise for its work in reorienting mental healthcare policy towards a recovery-based model.
The study appearing in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems presents a bird’s-eye view of national and sub-state policies and programs on the topic of mental health recovery, a concept that has gained interest over the past decade as mental healthcare systems move towards a more patient-centred, personalized approach to mental health.
As opposed to viewing the idea of recovery under its traditional, more clinical iteration, which focuses heavily on treatment options for the reduction of isolated symptoms, the new recovery model attempts to centralize the individual’s personal journey in dealing with their mental illness and on supporting attempts to build resiliency in the face of mental illness.
“The goal of many mental health services and treatments is now recovery,” says the Canadian Mental Health Association, which defines the idea as the “personal process that people with mental health conditions experience in gaining control, meaning and purpose in their lives.”
The CMHA sees the recovery philosophy as a complete reorientation of mental health care in Canada, saying that it entails changing the way services are funded and organized, how mental health professionals are trained and how success is measured. “Recovery is about transforming the mental health system so that it truly puts the person at the centre,” says the CMHA.
The new study focuses on ten industrialized countries, including Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and finds that national attempts to implement recovery-based programs are for the most part still in their early stages, with diverse understandings of recovery and the recovery model informing program development. “Despite growing acknowledgement of service users’ role in the decision-making process of what kind of services they are receiving, most mental health systems are still far from implementing recovery-oriented practices across all services,” say the study’s authors, an international team of specialists including representatives from Columbia University in New York and the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group in Ottawa.
Assessing Canada’s efforts, the authors point towards the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s current work towards creating new recovery-based guidelines for mental healthcare and its attempt to align shifts in practice with concepts of recovery. As well, the authors singled out a few regions for their work in recovery-realignment, including the province of BC and its ten-year initiative, Healthy Mind, Healthy People, and the Ontario regions of Waterloo and Wellington-Dufferin for their creation of “innovative” partnerships between mental health agencies and service user organizations.
“Some countries are just at the beginning of this process while others have already invested heavily in bringing their mental health system in line with recovery-oriented practices including the development and implementation of recovery-oriented measures as part of routine quality measurement in mental health care,” say the study’s authors, who point out that further input from the research community, especially on the relationship between recovery outcomes and traditional clinical outcomes, will only benefit attempts to develop recovery-based programs and services.