Recovery in The Bin: 20 Key Principles

This User Led group is for Psychiatric Survivors and Supporters who are fed up with the way colonised ‘recovery’ is being used to discipline and control those who are trying to find a place in the world, to live as they wish, while trying to deal with the very real mental distress they encounter on a daily basis. We believe in human rights and social and economic justice!

Recovery in the Bin

What we believe

1. We believe that the concept of ‘recovery’ has been colonised by mental health services, commissioners and policy makers.
2. We believe the growing development of this form of the ‘Recovery Model’ is a symptom of neoliberalism, and that capitalism is at the root of the crisis! Many of us will never be able to ‘recover’ living under these intolerable social and economic conditions, due to the effects of circumstances such as poor housing, poverty, stigma, racism, sexism, unreasonable work expectations, and countless other barriers.
3. We believe that the term ‘UnRecovered’ is a valid and legitimate political self-definition (not a permanent description of anyone’s mental state) and we emphasise its political and social contrast to ‘Recovered’. This doesn’t mean we want to remain ‘unwell’ or ‘ill’ but that we reject the new neoliberal intrusion on the word ‘recovery’ that has been redefined, and taken over by market forces, humiliating treatment techniques and homogenising outcome measurements.
4. We believe that there are core principles of recovery that are worth saving, but that the colonisation of ‘recovery’ undermines those principles which have so far championed autonomy and self-determination. These principles cannot be found in one size fits all models, or calibrated by outcome measures. We also believe that autonomy and self-determination can only be attained through collective struggle rather than through individualistic striving and aspiration, as we are social beings.
5. We propose to spread awareness of how neoliberalism and market forces shape the way mental health ‘recovery’ is planned and delivered by services, including those within the voluntary sector.

What we are against
6. We are critical of tools, such as “Recovery Stars”, as a means of measuring ‘progress’ as they represent a narrow & judgemental view of wellness and self-definition. We do not believe outcome measures are a helpful way to steer policy, techniques or services towards helping people cope with mental distress.
7. We believe that mental health services are using ‘recovery’ ideology to mask greater coercion. For example, the claim that Community Treatment Orders are imposed as a “step towards recovery”.
8. We object to therapeutic techniques like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘positive thinking’ being used to pacify patients and stifle collective dissent.
9. We oppose how ‘Peer Support Workers’ are now expected to have acceptable ‘recovery stories’ that entail gratuitous self-exploration, and versions of ‘successful recovery’ fulfilling expectations, yet no such job requirements are expected of other workers in the mental health sector.
10. We refuse to feel compelled to tell our ‘stories’, in order to be validated, whether as Peer Support Workers, Activists, Campaigners and/or Academics. We believe being made to feel like you have to tell your ‘story’ to justify your experience is a form of disempowerment, under the guise of empowerment.
11. We are opposed to techniques such as “Recovery Colleges” and DWP/ Maximus staff being deployed in Mental Health Community Hubs, GPs’ surgeries and food banks.
12. We oppose and actively fight White supremacy – a type of racial hierarchy in which Whiteness occupies the highest position – because mental suffering and emotional distress are but some of its many destructive consequences. The MH system’s failure to identify and mitigate this is another layer of oppression. We believe that recovery is impossible in the context of an oppressive society.

What we demand
13. We demand that no one is put under unnecessary pressure or unreasonable expectations to ‘recover’ by mental health services. For example, by being discharged too soon or being pushed into inappropriate employment.
14. We demand an immediate halt to the erosion of the welfare state, an end to benefits cuts, delays and sanctions, and the abolishment of ‘Work Capability Assessments’ & ‘Workfare’, which are both unfit for purpose. As a consequence of austerity, people are killing themselves, and policy-makers must be held to account.
15. We want a robust ‘Social Model of Madness & Distress’, from the left of politics, placing mental health within the context of the wider class struggle. We know from both experience and evidence that capitalism and social inequality can be bad for your mental health!
16. We want genuine non-medicalised alternatives to be given far greater credence, and sufficient funding, in order to be planned & delivered effectively. (No half measures, redistribution of resources from traditional MH services if necessary.)
17. We demand the immediate fair redistribution of the world’s wealth, and that all capital for military/nuclear purposes is redirected to progressive User-Led Community and Social Care mental health services.
18. We need a broader range of Survivor narratives to be recognised, honoured, respected and promoted that include an understanding of the difficulties and struggles that people face every day when unable to ‘recover’, not just ‘successful recovery’ type stories.
19. We demand that an independent enquiry is commissioned into the so-called ‘Recovery Model’ and associated ideology that it stems from.

Finally and most importantly
20. We reserve the right to ridicule and satirise what we dislike rather than always respond with reasoned arguments which can get a bit boring and bad for our mental health.

We call for our fellow Survivors and allies to adopt our principles, and join us in campaigning against this new ‘recovery’ ideology. We know our views about ‘recovery’ will be controversial, and used by supporters of the ideologies behind ‘recovery’ colonisation to try to divide us. However, we seek to balance the protection of existing services valued by Survivors with agitation for fundamental change.

Find out more at

and follow RitB on Twitter @recoveryinthebin

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