The social capitals of recovery in mental health




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In this paper we examine the process of recovery in people who have undertaken treatment for mental health problems, based on interviews with 34 participants. We describe their experiences through the lens of social capital, focusing on the social networks and relationships within which they are embedded and which they utilise to give purpose and meaning to their lives. The accounts give sense of movement from relationships, institutions and networks which were provided through their engagement with services towards relationships outside the health care system which were more freely chosen and which provided a sense that they were able to achieve recognition and make a contribution. The latter included such activities as art, theatre and sport. The relationships and institutions with which they were engaged via the statutory services were described as burdensome and inappropriate, whereas those which were freely chosen appeared more emancipatory and positively constitutive of identity. We have called this latter experience one of ‘intentional social capital’ because the participants were deliberately choosing and orienting to these networks, and were able to derive pleasure and a sense of self from them. The findings have implications for how we see the situation of people recovering from mental health problems inasmuch as professional attitudes and practices could usefully be extended to more fully recognise and encourage wider patterns of social engagement and fulfilment occurring outside the limited contribution of clinical definitions and clinical interventions.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Recovery, Social capital, Mental health


Brown, B.J. and Baker, S. (2018) The social capitals of recovery in mental health. Health, 24 (4), pp. 384-402


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care
Mary Seacole Research Centre