Recovery means living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life, even when mental health problems and illnesses cause ongoing limitations.

Recovery is a process in which people living with mental health problems and illnesses are actively engaged in their own journey of wellbeing — this is possible for everyone.

Recovery-oriented practices will enhance health outcomes and quality of life for people with lived experience of mental health problems and illnesses — and their families.

What is Recovery?

Recovery has been championed by people with lived experience of mental health problems and illnesses for decades and has been embraced by practitioners, service providers, and policy makers in Canada and around the world. Recovery approaches stand on two pillars:

  1. Recognizing that each person is unique, with the right to determine their own path toward mental health and wellbeing; and
  2. Understanding that we live in complex societies where many intersecting factors (biological, psychological, social, economic, cultural, and spiritual) have an impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Recovery — a process in which people living with mental health problems and illnesses are actively engaged in their own journey of wellbeing — is possible for everyone.

Recovery journeys build on individual, family, cultural, and community strengths and can be supported by many types of services, supports, and treatments.

Recovery principles, including hope, self-determination, and responsibility, can be adapted to the realities of different life stages, and to the full range of mental health problems and mental illnesses.

Imagine a world where:

  • The mental health system can offer everyone the opportunity to develop their abilities;
  • People’s knowledge and experience is respected, and they participate actively in the design and implementation of services and supports;
  • All the factors that affect people’s wellbeing — biological, psychological, social, and economic — are addressed; and,
  • Where diversity is a source of strength and no matter a person’s origin, background, or culture, they may strive to reach their full potential, free from prejudice and discrimination.

What is the MHCC doing?

The shift to recovery-oriented practice is already underway with a growing number of initiatives in place across the country. The MHCC is committed to learning from, and working with, all stakeholders to accelerate this shift by encouraging dialogue about recovery; promoting successful policies, programs and practices; and, providing tools to help transform practice.

The Declaration of Commitment to Recovery outlines key recovery principles to help foster broader understanding and wider conversations about recovery and build momentum for change. It is intended as a “conversation-starter” to encourage and support individuals and organizations to promote recovery-oriented practices at all levels of the mental health system. Organizations and individuals are invited to learn more about recovery and to sign and share the Declaration online as well as to view all Recovery Declaration signatories.

Stakeholders from across Canada identified the need for a national recovery database that would facilitate better knowledge sharing and help accelerate the adoption of recovery-oriented practices. To meet this need, the MHCC developed the Canadian Recovery Inventory. It makes available a broad range of recovery-oriented policies, programs, practices, and research, as well as personal accounts. The inventory can be searched by keyword, resource type, topic, geographic location, and language to find resources relevant to their needs and interests.

After extensive consultation and drawing on the many existing pockets of excellence across the country, the MHCC launched Guidelines for Recovery-Oriented Practice in June 2015, in Winnipeg, These guidelines are a comprehensive reference document for understanding recovery and promoting a consistent application of recovery principles at policy, program and practice levels. They provide guidance on tailoring recovery-oriented approaches to respond to the diverse needs of people living with mental health problems or illnesses, whatever their condition, background, circumstance or stage of life.

What has been learned?

Change requires everyone’s participation. Working with stakeholders and champions across the country, from grassroots to governments, the MHCC’s Recovery initiative is designed to accelerate recovery-oriented approaches. Its impact is expected to extend beyond mental health systems to include sectors such as justice and education, among others.

Addressing the social determinants of health – the living conditions that impact our wellbeing – while attending to a person’s individual needs are key to improving health outcomes. Offering choice in how those social determinants of health are addressed can also serve to foster a person’s engagement in their recovery. At Home/Chez Soi implemented recovery-oriented care for people who were amongst the most vulnerable and difficult to help by providing over 1,000 people living in Canada who were homeless with access to their choice of housing and to the services, treatments, and supports they needed. In November 2015, following the successful operation of this pilot project, the MHCC came to an agreement to transfer the management of this program to the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Caregivers play an important role in the recovery journeys of their loved ones and, wherever possible, they should be included as partners in the facilitation and planning of care. The National Guidelines for a Comprehensive Service System to Support Family Caregivers of Adults with Mental Health Problems and Illnesses were developed in consultation with caregivers and people with lived experience of mental health problems or illnesses. The Guidelines embrace recovery principles and present a blueprint for an evidence-informed system of care that fosters respect, self-determination, and dignity.

Peer support enhances recovery for people living with a mental health problem or illness. Peer supporters draw on their own experiences with mental health problems or illnesses and use that knowledge to support individuals and their families to make informed choices. They are able to share the path they have taken towards recovery and convey the message that recovery is possible. Working together with experienced champions of peer support, the MHCC has developed Guidelines for the Practice and Training of Peer Support to encourage the development of more peer support capacity in Canada.