A crucial part of recovery is moving towards an identity/or sense of self that is rich and includes mental health problems, wellness and all other aspects of identity. It’s also important to be able to make choices, take responsibility and therefore take ownership and be in control of the process. This can be supported through self-help and self-management approaches.
‘Agency (taking control) is a key element in personal narratives of illness in recovery, because it is integral to the most dramatic of narratives, the turning point-when participants truly become heroes of their own lives and cease to be victims of circumstance or controlled by others, including health professionals… it is at the heart of recovery. Although support and intervention from others was crucial too, it was important that support stimulated personal initiative, rather than creating dependency.’ (Lapsey et al 2002).
Taking control is about self-determination, and one way of realising this is through selfmanagement and self-care. Pat Deegan (1993) describes what this means for her:
‘Recovery means I stay in the driver’s seat of my life. I don’t let my illness run me. Over the years I have worked hard to become an expert in my own self-care.’
There are many different ways that people can manage their own mental health and get in the ‘driver’s seat.’ For example, they can use a light box in darker, winter months, use peer support, eat or avoid certain foods or exercise. This is often called self-help or self-management. The terms can be interchangeable, but refer to a wide range of opportunities such as self-help groups, self-management tools and other approaches developed by individuals to manage their wellbeing and take control of their recovery.