Spirituality and Hope in Mental Health

A new frontier for the mental healthcare recovery movement is the effects of spirituality and hope in mental illnesses. Now importantly, spirituality and hope are not one in the same. Spirituality is finding some sort of faith, whether in a religion or in one’s self, to lean upon. Hope in regards to mental illness recovery, on the other hand, can stem from both spirituality and through learning from great examples.

Hope in mental health recovery is crucial. One must have something to drive themselves to improvement or they risk a feeling of stagnation, which can spiral into a lack of activity, growing weight disorders, and adult onset diabetes. Such discussion, however, ventures into the realm of the importance of physical activity in mental health recovery, which is truly a topic in and of itself, thus for fear of digression, as important and immense as the subject matter is, it will not be discussed further in this article.

As one begins to notice, those in the upper functioning levels of recovery in mental health care facilities tend to have abnormally high levels of faith and spirituality. This suggests that spirituality, and all the necessary self-reflection that occurs through the path to spirituality or faith in any given belief, serves as an external motivation and support system for recovery from mental illness. This occurs for several reasons. Primarily, following a form of religion tends to expose the mental healthcare consumer to a supportive social network; as will be discussed in a future article, productive and supportive social networks are crucial on the path to recovery. Religion also encourages self-reflection for the purpose of discovering one’s relationship to both figures of external deities and to those in the surrounding community.

This form of self reflection is of immensely constructive value, for it is echoed in a psychological treatment plan for mental healthcare recovery known as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is a method of psychotherapy developed by the University of Washington’s Marhsa Linehan, which follows a pseudo-Buddhist meditative approach of self-reflection for the purpose of emotional regulation and distress management. Importantly, I do not propose to push one religion over another, I am very much a proponent of spirituality in one’s self being just as effective, if not more, than spirituality in the form of a religion; it is merely the act of self-reflective meditation, whether that be seated meditation such as the Buddhists, Daoists, or Zen practitioners, or whether it be active meditation in the form of yoga, jogging, martial arts, etc. which is important. Spirituality in mental healthcare recovery forces the individual to acknowledge the self; to acknowledge the self’s shortcomings, and yes, to recognize the self’s strengths as well, which ultimately results in more progressive and realistic treatment goals, thus more effective recovery tactics.

One can thus understand why spirituality, whether that be in the form of religion or self-belief, is important to recovery, but hope is on an equal playing field of importance. Hope can stem from spirituality (as in a desire to become a better, more balanced person), but is also derived from exposure to examples of success. The American Club House Model of mental healthcare recovery positions those with mental illnesses in a close proximity to one another. After speaking with several mental healthcare consumers, one begins to recognize the influence of successful individuals with mental illnesses on those still on the path to recovery. Those still struggling with their disorder can learn from successful examples, learn from others’ former mistakes, and hold others as a shining light when they hit a down-swing; also serving as inspirational to many healthcare consumers are the many success stories being published on YouTube, which allows consumers to view those who suffer from severe mental illnesses and their successes from anywhere in the world.

Spirituality and hope in mental illness recovery can be monumentally important. The Western slope and coastal regions of the United States are starting to push such a methodology via their Hope studies, while the Eastern state hospitals and mental healthcare facilities are tending to lag behind. Hope in mental health recovery is monumentally important, and is a cutting edge development for mental healthcare practitioners.

Find a sense of spirituality, whether that be in a higher power or faith in yourself. Discover the hope that follows. And then, you will notice the difference in recovery hope truly represents.

-Lex Douvasa
Information Systems Researcher and Data Mining Mental Health Researcher


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