Stories of hope and recovery


Grow Mental Health has launched its most recent collection of recovery stories, a book entitled Stories of Hope and RecoveryWith a forward by Dr Pat Bracken, consultant psychiatrist and recently retired as clinical director of services in West Cork, Stories of Hope and Recovery contains very personal accounts of how membership of Grow has opened up a route to recovery from uniquely different starting places. Pat praises the book because it illustrates the centrality of 

‘finding purpose, solidarity and most importantly hope. The recovery approach puts these centre stage. It recognises that people move on from being ‘stuck’ along many paths. It does not dismiss the importance of medication or therapy but it positions them as adjuncts to the real work of mental health which is about meaning, values and relationships. The World Health Organisation says that the recovery approach offers a different way of thinking about mental health, a different way of relating to mental suffering, a different way of seeking to understand and conceptualise the way in which problems arise and a different set of priorities in terms of interventions, research and training’

The authors of these stories all came across Grow in different ways. Some were introduced to it while they were in hospital, some by a psychiatrist, nurse or psychotherapist, others heard about it on the radio or from a chance encounter. For each person, joining Grow represented a real turning point where they began to find a way out of a deep sense of hopelessness, terror, self loathing, despair and doubt. 

‘It was a great sense of relief for me to find there were people there who already knew something of how I felt’  Richard

‘I was kind of shocked at how freely people were talking about their mental health’ Michael A

‘I was nervous and slightly scared. There was no need to be. I felt welcomed straight away’ Becky

‘To our wide eyed astonishment we could simply sit and listen to other warm open hearts sharing stories and vulnerabilities’ Aisling

As well as the stories of recovery this book provides insight into how Grow has evolved and how it works. Grow began in Australia in 1957 and came to Ireland in 1969. It is currently Ireland’s largest network of peer support in the area of mental health and is funded by the HSE. A Grow meeting lasts for about 90 minutes and can cater for up to a dozen people. The meeting method is highly structured in a way that allows its members to safely conduct their own meetings. The groups are confidential, anonymous and free and occur once a week. Leadership training is offered to all new members and everyone is seen as having leadership qualities and valuable lived experience. At each meeting one person will give a story of recovery and growth. After this each person gives a progress report on how they have tackled a practical task during the week. This can be anything. Making yourself get out of bed, applying for a job, practicing meditation or learning how to communicate better. Time is given to studying some aspect of mental health and recovery and the meeting concludes with each person setting a goal for the week ahead.

There are several research studies that speak to the efficacy of Grow: Corrigan P et al 2002, 2005 Dunne E & Meehan T 2003, Finn L 2001 Kennedy M 1989 1995 Kloos B 1999 , Rappaport J et al 1981, 1987, 1988 2000 2005 2008 Salem D 1984 Watts M & Higgis A 2017 and yet Grow and peer support in general are still a very under used resource.

If you are struggling with your own mental health at the moment you may find this book helpful. The stories have been written by professionals, homemakers, students, retirees and even some mental health workers. They illustrate how it is possible, not only to recover from anxiety, depression, psychosis, traumatic life events, broken relationships or sexual identity issues but it is possible to blossom as a human being and to use your own struggles to help others.  If you are a mental health professional then learning about the benefits of peer support could become an added resource. 

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Mike Watts is a past national coordinator of Grow Mental Health, a visiting lecturer and independent recovery advocate and researcher with 50 years in the field