Recently, United Kingdom researchers at the University of Nottingham found that when you share your story on mental health recovery, it may help others with their own mental health problems. The research is relevant as some mental health professionals are using more recovery narratives during therapy.

The research, which was part of the Narrative Experiences Online study, looked at hundreds of pieces of literature, including books and articles from 2000 to 2018. Research also looked at 45 studies focusing on the therapeutic effects of recovery stories.

The author of the study, Stefan Rennick-Egglestone, said his team wanted to assess whether or not other people’s mental health recovery stories could be useful to someone else as they work on their healing process.

The Importance of Mental Health Narratives

The research from Rennick-Egglestone and his team evaluated how people responded to the mental health stories of others. Research also assessed if these stories would help people feel more visible and understood.

The team found that personal mental health stories can be helpful when used by mental health professionals as a supportive tool with clients. These stories can be especially useful for reducing the mental health stigma people feel when they live in isolated areas or are part of a minority community.

Stories Should Inspire, Not Trigger

While the study found some benefits as far as personal narratives and mental health inspiration, it also showed that these stories have to be carefully managed. Some stories could worsen symptoms and cause more harm than good. An example of a mental health trigger is a personal story of self-harm. Eating disorder stories can also be triggering for those already living with them.

For personal narratives to be useful, study authors feel that they need to serve as mental health inspiration and show the choices available for treatment and recovery. Effective stories provide encouraging words for mental wellness and a sense of hope.

The best outcomes, based on the study, were shown in people without a large peer group available face-to-face. Study authors also point out that it’s best for someone to have a source of support available to them in conjunction with the use of personal stories — for example, guidance from a professional therapist.

Calling for Diversity in Mental Health Conversations

Minority stories of mental health recovery can be especially valuable since there tends to be a significant stigma in many minority populations about mental health issues and therapy. For example, according to the American Psychiatric Association, when it comes to mental health and diversity, minorities often have poorer mental health outcomes because of decreased access to mental health care services, cultural stigma, lack of awareness about mental health and discrimination.

In 2015, among adults with a mental illness, 48% of white people received mental health services, compared to just 31% of African American and Hispanic individuals and 22% of Asians. At the same time, according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience a serious mental health issue than the general population.

These minority mental health statistics point to the potential for sharing narratives to increase the likelihood of receiving treatment in certain situations, although more research is needed.

If you have a co-occurring mental health condition and a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village to learn more about treatment options.

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