Defining Recovery


The Mental Health Commission of Canada defines recovery as

…a journey of healing that builds on individual, family, cultural and community strengths, and enables people living with mental health problems and illnesses to lead meaningful lives in the community, despite any limitations imposed by their condition.

In this sense, recovery is not the same thing as “cure,” as it may or may not include a full and permanent remission of symptoms. But this approach to recovery affirms the ability of people to recover their lives, even if they do not fully “recover from” their illness; it highlights their capacity to retain or regain their mental health and well-being, while managing whatever symptoms of illness may remain. It draws on the idea that people living with mental health problems and illnesses will experience varying degrees of mental health, just as everyone does.

A recovery orientation is founded on the principles of hope, empowerment, choice and responsibility. The hope for recovery, as it is defined in this document, is intended to be available to people with the full range of mental health problems and illnesses, of all ages, and from all backgrounds. The Commission is firmly convinced that a focus on recovery needs to occupy a central place in the transformation of the mental health system in Canada, as it has in many other countries around the world, including the United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Achieving such a transformation will not be easy, as fully implementing a recovery orientation will require re-thinking “business as usual.” The objective must be to ensure that people living with mental health problems and illnesses are treated with the same dignity and respect as their fellow citizens and have the opportunity to lead full and meaningful lives in the community, free from discrimination.

Excerpt from Toward Recovery and Well Being: A Framework for a Mental Health Strategy for Canada. Mental Health Commission of Canada