The Scottish Recovery Network

The Scottish Recovery Network (SRN) has been working since 2004 to:

  • Raise awareness of recovery;
  • Develop a better understanding of the factors which help and hinder recovery; and
  • Build capacity for recovery by sharing information and supporting efforts to promote recovery.

A major part of the initial work of the SRN involved a large-scale narrative research project. As part of this project, 64 people from Scotland, who described themselves as in recovery, or having recovered from a long-term mental health problem, were interviewed.

Key findings from that research include:

  • The importance of having a positive identity focused on wellness, strengths, and recovery.
  • The need to be involved in activities which provide meaning and purpose, and to pace and control that involvement. Such activities included volunteering, paid employment, and creativity.
  • The importance of relationships based on hope, belief, and trust.
  • The need for easy access to services and treatments that are focused on recovery.

Many people described the importance of believing in the possibility of recovery. They described how taking a more optimistic approach to their illness created hope, a feeling of self-worth, and confidence. It helped them create a new identity as a person who was in recovery.

It is rare for anyone to return to the way they were before a major life event. Our experiences change us, and it is often true that people who have experienced serious and distressing life events say that in the longer term they have grown and developed through them. This is part of the recovery message. People who have had a diagnosis of serious mental health problems often report that embarking on the journey of recovery and finding ways to live fulfilling lives has enabled them to grow. Another similarly strong theme was focused around being in control and making choices.

Learning about recovery helps a mental health first-aider recognise the importance of relating to a person who is in distress or unwell as more than just an immediate crisis to be dealt with. We can help the process of recovery by speaking to the person with respect rather than talking down to them, and also to speak with hope and reassurance.

Learning about recovery can also help protect us from becoming unwell. Understanding what helps us recover is a good basis for helping our own and others’ mental health.

Keeping Safe

The mental health first-aider must always put their own well-being and safety first. Taking care of one’s own health and safety can mean a variety of things depending on the situation.

  • Occasionally, people in a distressed state can become threatening to others due to fear or confusion. If you are in any doubt about your own or others’ safety, move away from the person and call for urgent help.
  • Even when the person appears threatening or unsafe, it is best to remain calm and continue to reassure the person of your concern for their well-being.
  • Be honest with the person. Tell them that you are concerned and are calling for help.
  • Sometimes people who are distressed become very attached to those who offer them help or comfort. As a first-aider, you are not obliged to take responsibility for the person’s long-term well-being and you should not agree to do more than you feel is reasonable. Your decision may depend on your relationship with the person and your own personal situation, but remember that the person’s well-being is not solely in your hands. A first-aider gives initial help before other help is available.
  • Helping a distressed person is stressful and sometimes very upsetting. A first-aider needs to practice good self-care.
  • Remember we are human beings and we cannot fix everything. When things do not go well with a person we are trying to help, it is important that we do not give ourselves a hard time.