By the end of this learning package you will:

  • gain an introductory understanding of narrative theory
  • appreciate the significance of narrative to the development of the recovery movement
  • consider the efficacy of sharing narratives of recovery for mental health promotion

One feature of the Recovery movement has been the sharing of people’s stories of recovery. Naturally, in recent years the Internet has played a significant role in this. Long before the Internet however, during the era of the closure of the asylums, stories began to emerge of people who had been incarcerated for many years, recovered once they were discharged into communities. The telling of these stories acted as a tremendous encouragement to others. People began to think about themselves and others in different ways. Whereas once upon a time, a diagnosis of schizophrenia for example could life-ruining, stories emerged of people with this diagnosis leading happy and satisfying lives and becoming active members of society. The Scottish Recovery Network has conducted a research project that has gathered a number of people’s stories. Follow this link to read some these stories.

  • Why do you think people want to share their stories?
  • What do the stories tell us about recovery and what helps people in their recovery journey?
  • What impact do the stories have on you when you read them?
  • How can these stories be used in mental health promotion?
  • How can these stories be used in research?

In academia stories are often referred to as narratives. Some say that narratives have been fundamental to human history and culture and individual identity (Brockmeier, 2001; Benwell and Stokoe, 2006). In other words, storytelling provides meaning to events and enables people to make sense of their world.

The study of narrative is the study of the ways in which humans experience the world, through the recounting and re-telling of experience. Narratives are present in every culture and civilisation. All societies have their local stories; that involve local people.

Recently, the study and practice of narrative inquiry has gained momentum in qualitative research and is illustrated with journals, books and conferences focusing upon the method.

Visit the web-pages of the Journal Narrative Inquiry to discover how narrative has been used in qualitative research.

Examples of mental health recovery stories in books:

  • Basset, T. and Stickley, T. (Eds.) (2010) Voices of Experience: Narratives of Mental Health Survivors.Chichester: Wiley.

  • LeCroy, C.W. and Holschuh, J. (Eds.) (2012) First Person Accounts of Mental Illness and Recovery: Case Examples of Living with a Mental Disorder. Chichester: Wiley.

  • Romme, M., Escher, S., Dillon, J. and Corstens, D. (2009) Living with Voices: 50 stories of recovery. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books.
  • Read this research article that is a good example of the narratives of mental health service users being used as research data.
  • What might the advantages and difficulties be of conducting this kind of research?
  • How can these stories be used in mental health promotion?

Think about John’s narrative included in this Unit. His story may sound fairly typical of someone experiencing mental health problems. Think about the link between narrative theory that has been introduced in this unit and the stories of people you have heard in your practice. How have you been affected in the past when you have listened to people’s stories? Look up the Tidal Model.

At the heart of this recovery model is for mental health workers to listen to people’s stories. It is a good example for a way to bring narrative theory to practice.

Narrative theory has much to contribute to the Recovery movement. The power of people’s stories helps to democratize people’s experiences. Definitions of mental health problems may be gleaned from people’s lived experiences rather than merely from the medical profession. Narrative inquiry may be a useful methodology in mental health research.

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