Beacon Press: Fighting for Recovery
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Fighting for Recovery

An Activists' History of Mental Health 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 They fought to reform outdated state and federal laws and programs.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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“Hardly ever does a single text so capably conjoin the personal with both policy and practice in mental health care. Through the lens of her own family’s experience with mental illness, Phyllis Vine illuminates key problems and achievements in mental health care over the past half century, while simultaneously giving the reader a detailed view of the development and evolution of the consumer movement and peer support. The results of her efforts are must-reading for anyone who wants to understand how the mental health field has developed and where it must go in the future.”
—Ron Manderscheid, former president/CEO, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors and the National Association for Rural Mental Health

“Phyllis Vine has assembled a long-overdue history of the mental health rights movement in America that is both poignant and scholarly. As this story makes clear, mental health reformers, starting with the patients themselves, have waged a furious struggle for decades just to earn a seat at the table. Real change, including wide-spread adoption of models of care that promote hope and recovery, is a cause that continues today. Fighting for Recovery is a singular accomplishment and a clear-eyed guide for anyone who aspires to understand why we have the mental health system we have and how to repair it.”
—Steve Coe, former CEO of Community Access

“As the daughter of a father who suffered from schizophrenia, I lived the challenges that Phyllis Vine documents so vividly in Fighting for Recovery. Treated with a variety of electroshock treatments and pills, his recovery was more dream than reality. With the passage of fifty years, Vine’s book finally gives me hope.”
—Arlene Notoro Morgan, assistant dean, Klein College of Media and Communications at Temple University, and advisory member, Rosalynn Carter Journalism Fellowship on Mental Health

Fighting for Recovery offers an inspiring reminder of all that it has taken to move mental health policy and public understanding from a view of permanent disability, illness, isolation, and marginalization to one of wellness, recovery, self-determination, and community success. Its historic sweep details the development of our movement over decades and provides a vivid reminder that the fight for recovery and rights requires us to stay vigilant.”
—Harvey Rosenthal, CEO, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services
“Phyllis Vine maintains that crisis, whether real or concocted, tends to drive policy in terms of the interface of the mental health and criminal justice systems. She takes us behind the scenes to explore the possibility of recovery for people with mental illness in our society from the 1960s to the present day, identifying key court cases, policy makers, and activists, and illuminating, with compelling examples, the impact that former consumers of mental health services have had and continue to have on destigmatizing mental illness. The current mental health system in America is in shambles. Now, Vine concludes, is the time to act.”
—Risdon N. Slate, author of The Criminalization of Mental Illness

Fighting for Recovery is an astonishing narrative of the effort to undo centuries of mistreatment of people struggling to recover from serious psychiatric struggles and disabilities. Vine captures the incredible fights, skirmishes, and out-and-out war between the players (ex-patients, families, the psychiatric establishment, other clinicians, the NIMH, legislators, presidential commissions, and scientists) over the past seventy years. Full of stories, and written in a crisp and clear fashion, it sets the reader right in the middle of the fracas. This is a one-of-a-kind guide for understanding the complex fight to create healing and caring environments, and a clarion call for the next generations to finish the job.”
—Dr. Courtenay Harding, former director, Center for Rehabilitation and Recovery at the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies 

Fighting for Recovery is a groundbreaking history of the mental health recovery movement in America. It covers both the family advocacy movement and, more importantly, the consumer/ex-patient/survivor movement, from its beginnings with the Mental Patients Liberation advocacy work of the early 1970s through today’s peer-support and advocacy organizations, which now provide services in most of the country. I highly recommended it to anyone interested in the mental health recovery movement in America.”
—Mike Finkle, founder and former executive director, On Our Own of Maryland

"The subtitle condenses the promise of this book: a bracing account by both committed activist and seasoned social historian, Fighting for Recovery is a textual double for the story it tells. Underscore struggle: messy, divisive, unresolved, leaving wreckage in its wake. The roster includes players of various stripes (clinicians, families, bureaucrats, service users/refusers, researchers, even venture capitalists), pitting power politics against street theatre, professional defensiveness against first-person testimony, and even (on rare occasion) discussing relevant research. You may have wondered why ‘psychiatry has been slow to adopt recovery programs.’ That verdict (coming after more than three hundred pages of painstakingly documented history) will be less mysterious—but not one iota less sad—to any reader of what came before it. The epilogue, a brave coda in its own right, brings the story up to date with shout-outs to promising changes in policing and prisons . . . and a weary, final call for action."
—Kim J. Hopper, author of Reckoning with Homelessness

"I am in awe of this generation-spanning, much-needed history about efforts to improve our tragically inadequate mental health system. Born out of love for a brother, executed with storytelling flair, and featuring a parade of impassioned individuals, Fighting for Recovery introduced me to waves of brilliant reforms—and reminded me of the villains who thwarted them. But part of what makes Phyllis Vine’s book such a find is the effect it had on my morale. While at times it made me cry out in frustration, by the end I took away an empowering message: You are not alone. You are in fellowship with many who envisioned something better—and many who still do. Armed with that sense of solidarity and this illuminating history, I feel newly resolved to keep fighting."
—Rachel Simon, author of Riding the Bus with My Sister

Fighting for Recovery

ISBN: 978-080707961-4
Publication Date: 9/20/2022
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $36.95
Format: Cloth
Not Yet Published
Will Ship On: September 2022
(Backorder policy)