Guest Blog – James Munro, Chief Executive, Patient Opinion – Can digital connection be part of the road to recovery?

Over the past decade or so, mental health users and professionals have been placing increasing emphasis on the idea of “recovery”, rather than “cure”, in mental health. The Scottish Recovery Network puts it this way: “Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by each person, in the presence or absence of symptoms. It is about having control over and input into your own life.”

All kinds of things are important in fostering recovery – everything we need to lead a meaningful life. The Mental Health Foundation says that the road to recovery depends on

  • good relationships
  • financial security
  • satisfying work
  • personal growth
  • the right living environment
  • developing one’s own cultural or spiritual perspectives
  • developing resilience to possible adversity or stress in the future

And, in a world where, increasingly, online information, communication and interaction with both people and organisations is “the new normal”, it is worth asking: might going online also be a significant contributor to recovery?

The online world offers infinite information. It enables the easy discovery of local organisations and resources which might support recovery. And it also offers the possibility of connections, and even relationships, with other people. Depending on what’s needed, I can explicitly find “people like me” – perhaps facing similar issues – or alternatively “people, in spite of me” – people who don’t need to know or care what issues I face.

Social media, in particular, can offer a sense of connection, community, and change. But, as anyone on Twitter or Facebook knows, it isn’t always positive. Social media can be addictive, aggressive, emotionally draining. It may help recovery, but in high doses may be toxic. Sometimes you have to step away.

This week a new project, #SheffieldFlourish, gets underway. The initial phase is a small project with a two month timescale, an exploration with a group of people in recovery, learning together through workshops and participation what going online might offer to their personal recovery, and what the obstacles – material, emotional, cultural – might be.

It introduces the notion of a “digital care plan” – a set of online services, resources and actions which are personalised to the needs and wants of each person. This will influence the development of a new digital wellbeing hub of the same name designed to be an online community meeting space.

The project is led by Roz Davies of Recovery Enterprises, a Sheffield social enterprise, and funded by the People Driven Digital Innovation Fund. It is supported by a motley crew of individuals and organisations including Sue Sibbald of BPDChat, Brendan Stone of the University of Sheffield and founder of Storying Sheffield, Nick Bax owner of the international design agency Human Studio, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS FT, Tinder Foundation, YooMee and Patient Opinion.

We’re hoping that Patient Opinion might turn out to be a useful tool in enabling people to give voice to their experiences of using mental health, or other local, care services. I’ll blog again on what we learn as the project progresses over the coming two months.

You can find out more about this project at the Recovery Enterprises blog.

Link to post –

*The opinions expressed are the bloggers own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Health Innovation Summit.
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