Recovery Narratives in Global Mental Health: Understanding the Benefits and Harms of Mental Health Service User’s Storytelling in Nepal

Sauharda Rai, Bonnie Nicole Kaiser, and Brandon A. Kohrt

Engagement of peers or service users is increasingly emphasized in mental health clinical, education, and research activities[1]. This movement is pushed forward by a message of “Nothing about us without us.” One of the core means of engagement is via the sharing of recovery narratives, through which mental health service users present their personal history of moving from suffering to recovery. Even outside of these “institutional programs”, people have started sharing their mental health struggles through various platforms including social media. Notable names including Price Harry, Lady Gaga and Deepika Padunke have openly talked about their mental health problems, thus creating spaces for openly discussing mental health and destigmatizing it.

The proposed presentation is a part of a paper where we critically examine the range of contexts and purposes for which recovery narratives are elicited in the context of global mental health as a part of institutional trainings and intervention and discuss about their potential benefits and harms. In this paper we have used four case studies – from Nepal, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Australia and rural US that represent the variability in recovery narrative elicitation, purpose, and geography. In this proposed presentation, I will be focusing on mental health service user’s engagement in a clinical training and social outreach program in Nepal aimed at improving clinical outcomes and stigma reduction[2].

My presentation will discuss about the process of engagement, the contents of their recovery narratives, its impact on the training/intervention and most importantly the effect of this engagement on their personal lives and recovery process. I will be talking specifically about the approach of visual storytelling used in Nepal. I will then talk about how recovery narrative elicitation often assumes – and enforces – a specific definition of recovery, actively excluding alternative framings of recovery. Then by comparing the Nepal case with the three other cases I will discuss about how recovery narratives can be used productively across multiple purposes and contexts, and the risks and challenges inherent in these approaches.

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