A Field Guide to Getting the Lost Art of Unrecovery (part one)

Filed under:UnRecovery — posted by Schizostroller on July 27, 2018 @ 7:49 pm

Groundwork for an apophenic presentation

“That’s the best thing,” he thought, “I’d better try a different approach. This is what I’ll do – I’ll just be an outside observer, and nothing more. I’m an onlooker, an outsider, that’s all I’ll say. And whatever happens it won’t be me who’s to blame. That’s it. That’s how it will be now.”
And our hero did indeed do that as he had decided and went back the more readily for having, thanks to a happy thought, become an outsider.
“It’s the best thing. You’re not responsible for anything, and you’ll see what you should.”

This article looks at unrecovery. Unrecovery is a general idea thought up in online discussions amongst the Recovery In The Bin (RitB) collective, a mental health activist group that was formed in response to concerns about mental health policy governance under first the coalition government in the UK from 2010-2015, and then under the Conservative government from 2015 to the present. Part of the claim of RitB is that the economic policy of austerity makes it harder to recover, and this is a direct consequence of the cost cutting, the narrowing of services available and the concurrent increase in NHS and outsourced private companies involved in recovery being required to reach outcome measures for auditing purposes as a response to austerity policy that as a consequence result in a move from guideline based best practice to more narrowly defined protocol to reach these outcomes that narrow the type of service ‘purchased’ or supplied by the NHS, whether it be CBT, Mindfulness, WRAP groups, peer services (that has also lost service users the parity of pay (argued for by Perkins and Repper ) due to the wage suppression that is part and parcel of service competition for contracts as well as the stagnation of wages that comes with austerity). We do not deny that people can and have recovered. The focus is on the social and economic factors that have affected not only the individual’s personal ability to recover through individual effort, but the social, economic and class factors that makes such recovery easier or harder, whilst identifying, in these times of austerity, a greater emphasis on individual effort thus creating a more punitive milieu for those struggling, especially when combined with the cuts to services that have previously supported these supposedly individual efforts. Many in RitB fully acknowledge that such pressures can exacerbate mental health issues. An acknowledgment that finds itself in opposition to the professed belief in bootstraps recovery that is analogous to the belief justifying Conservative benefit cuts that are premised on the idea that these cuts ‘help’ people on these benefits ‘into work’. As part of this ideology we have the belief in ‘benefit dependency’. An idea that is promoted both in the media and public service workplace despite situations in regions where the benefit Universal Credit is being piloted meaning that low paid workers for the DWP (who are also on Universal credit but in full time work) are being asked to push certain policies, including sanctions, that are premised on this idea that benefits create dependency.
Many of the other members of the collective have already been discussing these arguments in length at conferences around the country and in articles over the last 3 years that RitB has been organising. I would like instead to focus on the practice of unrecovery, or at least an argument for a possible perspective of what it is, or could be. Part of this argument is premised on the idea that nobody WANTS to be ill. The idea that ‘recovery is a choice’ is a contradiction. Everybody is always already, every day, working to recovery. Recovering in a sense is a necessity, an aspect of self-preservation therefore it is not a choice. Being ill is crap. When people remain ill for long periods then there really is something wrong. But that something wrong has causes that might, and often does, include the social, structural, communicative, linguistic, ideological and economic factors, not just some individual psychological-behavioural or genetic/biological issue, or for that matter merely a failure to address past trauma. As such, much like ‘unbirthdays’ in Alice In Wonderland, every day that is not conforming to a Tory normalising agenda is an ‘unrecovery’ day. To put the idea that recovery is not just a ‘personal journey’ but a social and political journey back on the agenda in a world of austerity-driven recovery outcome measures, we now have ‘unrecovery’. Happy unrecovery day to you

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace