Beacon Press: Fighting for Recovery
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Fighting for Recovery

A People's History of Mental Health Care Reform

Author: Phyllis Vine

The story of the former patients and mental health care activists who created the recovery movement for people with a psychiatric diagnosis, from the 1970s to present day.

Conventional wisdom says that people with a serious psychiatric diagnosis are doomed to a dreary future. But in the 1970s, a number of former psychiatric patients rebelled against this vision and formed a mental patients liberation movement that would stretch the nation, challenge medical authority, and align with anti-war, civil rights, and women’s movements. Their rally cry: recovery was possible. Out of the abyss of chaos, dejection and hopelessness, came activism.

They started as an anti-psychiatry movement. Treatments had failed in the community because people like them, who society had once exiled, had been stuck in systems unresponsive to promoting rehabilitation and social integration. At the core of their movement were questions of power. How was it allocated and to whom? Who designed and defined services? And who would be served?

To drive change these ex-patients challenged other advocates: families, social service agencies, legal and medical professionals, and research psychiatrists. They fought to reform outdated state and federal laws and programs. Within 2 decades, they had created a liberation movement that advocated for self-help and peer service in local communities, and claimed recovery and rehabilitation were possible.

Recovery, for ex-patients, is a process of reclaiming a measure of authority over their own lives, by having active discussions about what’s essential to sustaining them while they achieve their goals. But recovery of any kind was thought to be incompatible with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or serious depressions in the 1970s. Tracing scientific and medical discoveries along with the activist movement, Fighting for Recovery shows that by the end of the century, this idea had begun to change even within the psychiatric establishment. Now psychiatric disorders were considered to be heterogeneous, not unitary and homogeneous. New drugs showed that symptoms once thought to be intractable were not, and research confirmed what the activists had long maintained: ex-patients helping one another to resume successful community living was the most successful model. Taken together, the accumulation of three thousand scientific studies led a surgeon general to conclude that recovery was possible. In 1999, a federal report to the nation by Surgeon General David Satcher said that treatments worked. The determination of activists, he said, had forced the world to open its eyes.

But knowing what needs to be done for people with a psychiatric challenge to recover is different from doing it. Noting the vast numbers of people of psychiatric illness in jails, prisons, on the streets, or simply underserved, Fighting for Recovery demands that we use the knowledge we have to dismantle programs built on flawed and outdated assumptions and provide services where none exist.
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Fighting for Recovery

ISBN: 978-080707961-4
Publication Date: 1/18/2022
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $28.95
Format: Cloth
Not Yet Published
Will Ship On: January 2022
(Backorder policy)