Facilitating Recovery from Mental Illness: An Examination of the Relationship between the ACT of Kalamazoo and its Consumers
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This study was performed over a three month period as part of a larger research project focusing on Kalamazoo County's Community Mental Health System and the services it provides for mentally ill adults. This research was done by myself and two other Kalamazoo College seniors under the supervision of Dr .Kiran Cunningham and Michael Geiszer. Our part of the project was to talk with consumers of the Mental Health System here in Kalamazoo, both formally and informally, in order to bring to light the knowledge that the mentally ill population has in regards to coping with illness. My specific interest was in looking at what the clients of the ACT of Kalamazoo report as the factors that have contributed to their process of recovery and, more specifically, how the ACT helps to facilitate this effort. In doing this I hope to strengthen the new attitudes toward the possibility of recovery for mentally ill people which has slowly been changing the face of mental health care systems. The intention of this paper is to both support research suggesting that recovery from mental illness is indeed possible when it is defined as a continuing process and further it by showing that this recovery process best takes place within the context of a facilitative and supportive relationship. In order to place the new attitudes toward recovery in perspective I will first review briefly earlier approaches which viewed mental illness as a chronic and stagnant condition. I will then review more recent approaches which emphasize recovery as an ongoing process. Assuming that a key factor in the recovery process is a supportive relationship I will examine the relationship that exists between people with mental illness and the community based service agency with which they have gotten involved, that being the ACT of Kalamazoo. In order to clarify the nature of this relationship I will use a "good parent" model as a point of comparison. I will draw an analogy between the growth process from childhood to adulthood as facilitated by a "good parent," and the process of recovery from mental illness as facilitated by the ACT. In doing so I hope to contribute further to the new visions and attitudes being cultivated in regards to mental illness.