The impact of mental health recovery narratives on recipients experiencing mental health problems: Qualitative analysis and change model [2019]

Mental health recovery narratives are stories of recovery from mental health problems. Narratives may impact in helpful and harmful ways on those who receive them. The objective of this paper is to develop a change model identifying the range of possible impacts and how they occur.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults with experience of mental health problems and recovery (n = 77). Participants were asked to share a mental health recovery narrative and to describe the impact of other people’s recovery narratives on their own recovery. A change model was generated through iterative thematic analysis of transcripts.

Change is initiated when a recipient develops a connection to a narrator or to the events descripted in their narrative. Change is mediated by the recipient recognising experiences shared with the narrator, noticing the achievements or difficulties of the narrator, learning how recovery happens, or experiencing emotional release. Helpful outcomes of receiving recovery narratives are connectedness, validation, hope, empowerment, appreciation, reference shift and stigma reduction. Harmful outcomes are a sense of inadequacy, disconnection, pessimism and burden. Impact is positively moderated by the perceived authenticity of the narrative, and can be reduced if the recipient is experiencing a crisis.

Interventions that incorporate the use of recovery narratives, such as peer support, anti-stigma campaigns and bibliotherapy, can use the change model to maximise benefit and minimise harms from narratives. Interventions should incorporate a diverse range of narratives available through different mediums to enable a range of recipients to connect with and benefit from this material. Service providers using recovery narratives should preserve authenticity so as to maximise impact, for example by avoiding excessive editing.

Stefan Rennick-Egglestone, Amy Ramsay, Rose McGranahan, Joy Llewellyn-Beardsley, Ada Hui, Kristian Pollock, Julie Repper, Caroline Yeo, Fiona Ng, James Roe, Steve Gillard, Graham Thornicroft, Susie Booth, Mike Slade
PLOS ONE, December 13, 2019