Psychosis: Stories of Recovery and Hope

Woody Caan (Editor)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 16 September 2011



Caan, W. (2011), "Psychosis: Stories of Recovery and Hope", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 190-191.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The original Editorial Board for this Journal included the late Arthur Crisp, who was leading the anti‐stigma campaign for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I can only imagine how pleased Professor Crisp would be, if he now read Psychosis: Stories of Recovery and Hope. The introductory sections are by professionals, including an expert in psychiatric rehabilitation Frank Holloway explaining “what is psychosis?”, but the substance of this book are first hand accounts by 14 people who have lived with years of illness (most had schizophrenia). The book has its origins in stories collected in London by the psychologist Jerome Carson and in photographs collated by the artist Jane Fradgley. It takes a lot of professional skill to enable some service users to articulate the many ups and downs of highly personal Life Stories, and I know these clinician‐editors have honed these skills over many years (Caan et al., 1996). All 14 contributors were not just willing but enthusiastic to tell their individual story – as Hannah Cordle notes in her introduction:

This aimed to reflect how recovery is a work in progress rather than a finished product for many people.

The personal search for meaning and identity took different routes for each individual, but a creative art (e.g. poetry, music or photography) or a religious faith often provided the framework for recovery. In one case explicit involvement in social and political action to improve public understanding of mental illness was the main route, but many stories described some active involvement in the local community, such as through exhibiting their artwork. Here, one professional group, occupational therapists, were seen in narratives as special friends:

They can help you to build confidence and open doors to activities for you to be involved in.

Where narrators were in contact with their families, these relatives also played an important role in recovery.

Overall, messages of hope and growth come through consistently, across the narratives. This contrasts strongly with the fashionable academic pessimism about a life trajectory set earlier by the genes and events in infancy (e.g. the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia of Owen et al., 2011).

The new national mental health and well‐being strategy includes the objective that “more people with mental health problems will recover” (HM Government, 2011). Over years, my local mental health services (the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust) have developed a Recovery Story project with many service users, and in 2011 they have been recognised as a “beacon” within the Supporting Recovery initiative, to “show the way for other trusts”.

My recommendation for many other places is that all 14 of these “Stories of recovery and hope” could help show the way.


Caan, W., Rutherford, J., Carson, J., Holloway, F. and Scott, A.M. (1996), “Auditing psychiatric day hospitals: the users' views in an inner city setting”, Journal of Mental Health, Vol. 5, pp. 17382.

HM Government (2011), No Health without Mental Health. A Cross‐government Mental Health Outcomes Strategy for People of All Ages, DH, London.

Owen, M.J., O'Donovan, M.C., Thapar, A. and Craddock, N. (2011), “Neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia”, British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 198, pp. 1735.

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