Research has revealed how a diverse group of people go about recovering from depression, outlining principles for recovery, directly relevant to the public.

Understanding mental health


Recovery from depression has been described as “building a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by the person themselves, whether or not there are ongoing or recurring symptoms or problems” (Shepherd, Boardman et al. 2008). Although recovery from mental health problems has been talked about for decades (and implemented by authorities such as the NHS), less attention has been paid to outlining what this means in practice.

A leader in the field, Professor Damien Ridge, has published various well-cited papers on the subject and a book for practitioners. His work has moved the field on from rhetoric and explains what that practice might entail for patients.

Ridge’s work shows that recovery involves telling a better and less detrimental story about oneself, embracing a ‘recovery’ attitude, using ‘recovery tools’ such as counseling, and allowing space to develop insights, showing that it is possible to have this attitude even during the depths of depression. Ridge has also revealed that ‘coming out’ for those with depression (and as part of recovery) shares the language and tasks that sexual minorities identify with, like feeling different as a child and wondering about how much to tell others. Specifically, men’s recovery frequently involved an assertion of their masculinity, like reestablishing control and a sense of responsibility to others.

Ridge advocates that the patient narrative itself is an important form of working with depression/treatment that was hitherto neglected. He is now applying these narrative and recovery concepts more widely, and has been funded to investigate the role of meditation in men’s distress, how to alleviate distress in men in primary care, and understanding the role of Western herbal medicine consultations in women’s distress.


…makes a significant impact in respect of establishing the therapeutic potential of narrative… a time when health care practitioners are obliged to reconsider their practices in the context of models advocating recovery, [Ridge] provides significant signpost as to what that practice might entail… balanced and considered.

Roddy McKenzie, NHS Highland, Scottish Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy.

Supported by: Nelsons, Make My Day Better Charity, Medical/Economic-Social Research Councils, Dept. of Health