Research into Recovery and Wellbeing

A website about the work of the recovery research team at the Institute of Mental Health

The University of Nottingham

March 2020

Recovery Research Network eBULLETIN


March 2020


RRN Meetings

The 23rd meeting of the Recovery Research Network (RRN) was due to be hosted by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.  Due to the current developments with regard to Covid-19, this event has been cancelled.


The coronavirus pandemic is having unprecedented effects both nationally and internationally.  During this time of social distancing and self-isolation, remaining connected to our networks is important.  Please can we encourage our readership to continue to submit material to e-bulletin using the detail below.


Thank-you. Please stay safe, and our best wishes to you all.


Please submit material to either Shula Ramon or Tony Sparkes. Their contact details are:





Coronavirus and Mental Health

The impact of coronavirus and government measures to restrict its transmission means that we have to pay particular attention to our mental health and wellbeing.  Some advice about this is available herehere and here.  Information from the World Health Organisation is available here.



RRN Membership Profile

Anyone who has an interest in recovery research can join the RRN, just fill in the online form available at:


Please note that if you join the Network, the details you supply will be circulated to other members of the Network as part of the monthly e-bulletin, but will not be put on our website and will not be shared with any other organisation. If you would like to leave the RRN and have your details removed from our database, please email



A Call to PhD Students and their Supervisors

Please could we remind the readership that PhD students (and their supervisors) are particularly welcome to join the RRN.  The forum provides a unique opportunity to network and build research capacity. The network also provides a collegial environment to present doctoral work.


Recovery Research: We would like to learn from your experience of conducting recovery research.  Therefore, would readers kindly get in touch with the Network to let us know about the things that have helped and the things that have hindered during your experience of undertaking recovery research. Please send your comments to either Tony or Shula.



Conferences and Events 

In an attempt to restrict the spread of coronavirus, limitations upon the free movement of people are evident in many countries throughout the world.  As you will no doubt be aware, such measures have impacted upon national and international travel and hospitality.


Whilst it is almost certain that traditional face-face conferencing/events will not be taking place in their ‘traditional’ format, please check with the organisers.  It may be that alternative or innovative platforms are being utilised to deliver such events going forward.  



Papers and Publications 

In addition to peer-reviewed literature and work of a purely academic nature, the ebulletin also welcomes the submission of material that would include grey literatures (such as briefing papers, reports and so on) that attest to the broader impact of personal recovery.



i)  Carey, B. (2020) After answering the voices, what’s next.  The New York times.  February 25th 2020.


In a recent article in the New York Times, Benedict Cary engages an editorial piece by Larry Davidson (Davidson 2019) to provide commentary upon a recent study looking at the utility of the Recovery Assessment Scale (RAS) as a clinical outcome measure of personal recovery. Discussion builds towards a conclusion suggesting that situating the RAS as a clinical measure, may be lack the sensitivity to address the lived experience of personal recovery.



Davidson, L. (2019) Is ‘personal recovery’ a useful measure of clinical outcome?  Psychiatric services.  Online:


Van der Krieke, L., Bartels-Velthuis, A. and Sytema S. (2019) Personal recovery among service users compared with siblings and a control group: a critical note on recovery assessment.  Psychiatric Services.  Online:



ii)  Jordan, G., Iyer, S.N., Malla, A. and Davidson, L. (2020) Posttraumatic growth and recovery following a first episode of psychosis: a narrative review of two concepts. Psychosis.  Online:



A first episode of psychosis is often a traumatic experience that leads to significant life disruptions. However, many young people recover following a first episode of psychosis. Two types of recovery from psychosis have been described in the literature: clinical recovery (i.e. the resolution of symptoms and resumption of social, occupational or educational goals) and personal recovery (i.e. finding a way to live a meaningful life despite the limitations of having a mental illness). Further, some young people may experience posttraumatic growth (i.e. positive psychological changes following the struggle with psychosis). It is unclear how posttraumatic growth and recovery are similar or distinct. This conceptual ambiguity may limit both theoretical and empirical work in the field. The purpose of this narrative review is to help resolve this ambiguity by describing similarities and differences in the historical roots, phenomenology, and predictors of recovery (both clinical and personal) and posttraumatic growth within the context of a first episode of psychosis. Our review concludes that personal recovery may be best understood as a broader construct under which clinical recovery is subsumed, and that posttraumatic growth may be a phenomenon that is related to, yet distinct from, personal recovery. Future empirical studies are needed to disentangle these phenomena



iii)  Sapouna, L. (2020) Service-user narratives in social work education; Co-production or co-option?  Social Work Education.  Online:



As a social work lecturer I have, over the years, developed strong links with service-user/survivor groups in an effort to contribute to a more context-focused and democratic approach to mental health education and practice. User narratives of psychiatric survival have been central in organizing resistance toward dominant constructions of ‘mental illness’. Within education, user narratives have created spaces for co-production with a transformative potential, as traditionally silenced voices can be heard and affirmed. However, recent debates suggest that such narratives are often used by mental health and educational systems to promote their own agendas. In this context, user narratives are no longer considered a transformative act of co-production or resistance. They are a commodity servicing primarily the interests of these systems. This paper adds to these debates through a self-reflexive discussion on my experience of including user/survivor narratives in Irish social work education, as user narratives remain insufficiently critiqued in this context. I consider the significance of power operations in the contexts where narratives are shared and heard and argue for the need to honour what has been achieved while problematizing what may be lost through the inclusion of service-user narratives in social work education.



iv)  Deegan, P. (2020)  The journey to use medication optimally to support recovery.  Psychiatric Services. 71(4)  401-402.


Building upon her previous work in this field, Pat Deegan’s short piece discusses a number of challenges regarding the use of medication as a tool within personal recovery.  She writes about the potential shift from passive to active engagement with medicine before considering the challenge of redefining a sense of self and the construction of a ‘new normal’.  Deegan discusses the need to balance the pros and cons of taking medicine in order to make an informed choice about its use.  The way medicine is used over time, including decisions to reduce or stop using it altogether are further challenges in the process of personal recovery. Deegan also writes about the development of personal understanding and motivation about medication use within her analysis.  In keeping with her earlier writings, Deegan situates the above challenges within a process that is non-linear, dynamic and quintessentially individual; not all challenges are encountered and what one person considers challenging, another person may not.



v)  Richardson, K. and Barkham, M. (2020) Recovery from depression: a systematic review of perceptions and associated factors. Journal of Mental Health. 29(1) 103-115.



Background: Despite extensive literature examining perceptions of recovery from severe mental illness, literature focusing on recovery from depression in adults is limited. Aim: Systematically review the existing literature investigating patients’ and clinicians’ perceptions of, and factors associated with, recovery from depression.

Method: Studies investigating perceptions of, and factors associated with, recovery from depression in adults were identified through database searches. Studies were assessed against inclusion criteria and quality rating checklists.

Results: Fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Recovery from depression is perceived as a complex, personal journey. The concept of normalised, biomedical definitions of recovery is not supported, with the construction of self and societal gender expectations identified by women as central to recovery. Recovery from depression was associated with higher levels of perceived social support and group memberships. A range of factors are identified as influencing recovery. However, physicians and patients prioritise different factors assessing what is important in being ‘‘cured’’ from depression.

Conclusions: Recovery from depression is perceived by patients as a complex, personal process, influenced by a range of factors. However, greater understanding of clinicians’ perceptions of client recovery from depression is essential to inform clinical practice and influence future research.



vi)  Holttum, S. (2020) Research watch: what really helps recovery in relation to severe mental health difficulties?  Mental Health and Social Inclusion.  24(1) 6-12



Purpose:  The purpose of this paper is to examine three recent papers on mental health services and how they support recovery following a diagnosis of a severe mental health condition.

Design/methodology/approach:  A search was carried out for recent papers on mental health and recovery. The author selected three papers that seemed to advance understanding of not only whether, but also how recovery of a meaningful life may be best supported in mental health services

Findings:  One paper suggested how staff were able to support service users’ personal goals and focus on recovery in acute inpatient settings, and what got in the way. The author suggests practical ways to address the barriers. A second paper reported the testing of a new model for supporting staff in primary and secondary care to work together so that service users with a diagnosis of bipolar or schizophrenia were better supported to work towards valued goals. A third paper reviewed 40 studies of how people can experience positive change after a first diagnosis of psychosis, and how change happened.

Originality/value:  By studying the issues in detail, all three papers show how improved support for recovery and inclusion can be implemented against the backdrop of many years of service shortcomings.



vii)  Milton, D., Ridout, S., Kourti, M., Loomes, G. and Martin, N. (2019), A critical reflection on the development of the Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC). Tizard Learning Disability Review. 24(2) 82-89



Purpose:  The Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC) was initially set up with the purpose of bringing autistic people, including scholars and activists (but not exclusively), together with early career researchers and practitioners who work with autistic people, with the aim being to build a community where those who wished to see more significant involvement of autistic people in autism research could share knowledge and expertise. This paper aims to discuss this issue.

Design/methodology/approach:  This paper explores the development of the PARC network, reflecting upon its activities and ethos within current higher education practices and structures.

Findings:  In supporting autistic individuals in their attempts to establish themselves within academic systems that may not always be considerate or accommodating, the existence of PARC creates a structure with which autistic people can influence social change. PARC serves as a network of support, strengthening the presence of autistic scholars in academia. It also provides a structure through which autistic people are able to demonstrate helpful practices with which to engage more broadly.

Originality/value:  The PARC network is the first autistic-led venture of its kind in the UK to have a sustained impact. PARC is growing to become an important element in the field of autism studies both by supporting emerging autistic academics and by promoting ethical and participatory research methods and practices.



Other News

i)  Out of the University of Nottingham, Dr Fiona Ng writes about current research with mental health recovery stories:


NEON (Narrative Experiences Online) is a new interactive website which provides online access to mental health recovery stories. We have collected hundreds of stories from around the world, in text, video and audio form, and preliminary evidence suggests that these stories can help people feel connected to others including the storyteller.


We are now starting three online trials of this website, and looking to recruit people with experience of psychosis, other kinds of mental health problems, and informal carers. People can find out more and sign up for free at  

  • These trials don’t require any face to face contact
  • There is no need to visit the health service
  • People can take part from home, purely online
  • Usage is self-guided, done any time – people can use it as little or as much as they want


Would you help us to promote the website through your networks? You can use any of the publicity materials available at or just tweet:


Can real-life mental health recovery stories help you with your own mental health? Access hundreds of recovery stories in the NEON Trial. Help researchers @InstituteMH understand the benefits of accessing other people’s recovery narratives. See


If you would like printed promotional materials (e.g. posters, postcards) do let us know (, and many thanks for your help.



ii)  Shula Ramon and Tony Sparkes co-produce the RRN monthly ebulletin. Please email if there is anything you would like included in the next issue, as we are keen to receive and advertise more news, articles and website references. Information can be posted to either Shula or Tony at the following: