Mental Illness and UnRecovery

The concept of “mental illness,” arguably like all concepts of disease and in fact the whole of human language, is a social construct. Unlike single-issue anti-psychiatry groups RITB sees the medical model in social, political, economic and historical context rather than as an autonomous entity. Accepting or rejecting social constructs, which to some extent we rely on, depends entirely on whether these constructs are any good or not. Some of us are very sceptical about the medical model but would NEVER make light of the reality of emotional distress and human suffering just to try to undermine this model because we know from personal experience that these things are all too real. Many of us reluctantly take medication, but see SOCIAL issues like welfare, housing, and appropriate forms of support as our priority issues RITB has space for debate – that’s part of what it’s for – as long as its members broadly accept its principles.

Which brings us on to UnRecovery. Who doesn’t want to recover, feel better, negotiate the world/life with greater ease? Taken from our principles:
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.

We are not malingerers, time-wasters,or any other patronising, condescending, dismissive term that is commonly used to describe those of us who don’t recover in the allotted time-limited, compassion-restricted, resource-poor format. We are however resistant, we resist the prevailing ideology, we resist neoliberalism and its implications for mental health services and we resist being shoved on the recovery conveyor belt – we simply don’t fit there.

UnRecovery is about saying we don’t all recover, or perhaps we don’t recover in the way expected of us, and that is ok if we are allowed and facilitated to live our lives as we are. We don’t say that no one can recover (or other preferred term/phrase/concept) or everyone can or should, but the dominant discourse OBLIGATES everyone to do so and in a prescribed format that makes it the flip side of the medical model coin, it’s just another tyranny, a more insidious tyranny. It’s pretty easy to argue against being chemically coshed, but it’s hard to argue against being ‘well’. What the medical model and the recovery model have in common is that both are a process of reducing the social and political down to the individual, blaming them for their distress while ignoring the material realities of their lives.

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A critical theorist and activist collective.