Mental health services need radical changes to make recovery a reality

17 March 2008

Mental health services need to offer people more opportunities to get their lives back and focus less on medication and symptom control, according to a policy paper published today by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

Making Recovery a Reality, by Geoff Shepherd, Jed Boardman and Mike Slade, says helping people to recover their lives should be the top priority for mental health services. This means giving service users the chance to determine what future they want for themselves and offering practical support to help them to achieve it.

Jed Boardman, policy adviser to Sainsbury Centre, said: "While recovery is already government policy, the reality is that mental health services still focus more on managing people's symptoms than their work, education and family life. Yet these are what matter most to most people.

"Recovery is a truly radical idea. It turns mental health services' priorities on their heads. Traditional services wait until a person's illness is cured before helping them to get their life back. Recovery-focused services aim from day one to help people to build a life for themselves. The medical care they give is in support of that bigger purpose."

Making Recovery a Reality says mental health services need to change radically to focus on recovery. They need to demonstrate success in helping service users to get their lives back and giving service users the chance to make their own decisions about how they live their lives.

Geoff Shepherd, policy adviser to Sainsbury Centre, said: "National guidance on how to focus services on recovery offers one way of shifting priorities.

"But recovery means making significant changes to traditional power relationships in mental health services. It may also mean making changes their recruitment practices to bring in more people with lived experience of mental illness as practitioners and managers. This would truly help to shift the culture of mental health services and make recovery a reality for all those who use them."


Making Recovery a Reality marks the beginning of the Sainsbury Centre recovery project. The project will look in more detail at how recovery can be made a practical reality in mental health services and in the criminal justice system.

The paper will be launched at the 2008 Sainsbury Centre Lecture on Monday, 17 March. The lecture will be delivered by Prof Robert Drake from Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire with a response by Rachel Perkins from South West London and St George's NHS Trust.

Making Recovery a Reality

Making Recovery a Reality Policy Paper cover image Helping people to recover their lives should be the top priority for mental health services.

Read more in this new paper about what services can do to become more recovery-orientated.

£5.00 for a paper copy or FREE to download

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