Scottish Recovery Network Director, Simon Bradstreet,introduces the new and ambitious Strategic Plan for 2012-16 andoffers some reflections on indicators of progress inScotland.

Since 2004 SRN has been working to raise awareness of thereality of recovery -  to learn more about the things thathelp and hinder this unique and individual process and to encouragelocal and national action. We've come a long way since the firstserious discussions started about adopting a recovery approach inScotland but there is clearly still a long way to go to achieve thevision described in our new strategy: A Scotland where mentalhealth recovery is a reality for all.

This vision statement is intended to demonstrate that mentalhealth recovery is something that everyone in Scotland should havea stake and interest in. If recovery becomes solely the domain ofsecondary mental health services and policy documents then we arewell wide of the mark. We really want the people of Scotland toexpect mental health recovery and to share this message with thosearound them. In simple terms, we believe that people who expect andunderstand recovery are more able to lead their own recovery andsupport others experiencing problems.

The process of developing SRN's new plan involved detaileddiscussions over an extended period with our Strategy Group andstaff team. SRN's Strategy Group comprised of people with their ownrecovery experience, family members and representatives ofprofessional groups and interests. The strategic plan was alsostrongly influenced by the 2010 independent evaluation of SRN andother research on our projects and initiatives, as well as directlyfrom feedback gathered from the vast array of people with whom wework.

The new plan includes four main high level goals - these are thethings we want to achieve as a result of this plan.

Goal 1: Raise awareness of recoveryThere is somuch more to do to ensure people are fully informed of the realityof recovery and their potential role. To help achieve this goal wewill reinvigorate our communications work with the ultimate aim ofcreating a wider spread and depth of knowledge of the nature ofrecovery and an increased expectation of it. 

Goal 2: Encourage empowerment

We feel strongly that there is much more to be done to ensurethat people with experience of mental health problems are moreempowered to lead their own recovery. As such, we plan to createnew recovery learning tools and to start talking about the "rightto recovery". We want people to demand recovery and encourage abottom up pressure for change. We'll also continue to develop ourvitally important work in relation to Peer Support, taking heartfrom the emerging findings of the Scottish Government's mentalhealth strategy consultation that suggests we are not alone in theview that peer working should form a vital aspect of any recoveryfocused system. We will also continue to promote the use of WRAP asan empowering means of self directed recovery with a strongemphasis on supporting quality delivery from as many as possible ofthe 70 people we have trained so far to Facilitator level.

Goal 3: Develop the evidence base

Over the past eight years there have been numerous recoveryrelated research projects in Scotland and beyond. We think it'simportant to stop and review the information and learning that hasbeen generated, take stock and suggest a plan of action to take theevidence base to the next level. People that are being asked tomake changes to promote recovery rightly demand good qualitysupporting evidence to justify change. To achieve this goal we arelooking at options to create a new partnership, or centre forrecovery learning and research, at the same time as continuing theroutine evaluation of our work.

Goal 4: Influence policy and practice

Recovery has become a real driving force for mental healthpolicy and practice in Scotland but there is still so much to do.We know that practice is variable across the country and we alsorecognise that it will take long term support and capacity buildingto truly embed recovery approaches at the local level. We willcontinue to support the use of the new and improved ScottishRecovery Indicator 2 within mental health services. We will alsodevelop a programme to further influence the training and educationof mental health practitioners in order to ensure that it is fullyinformed by recovery principles and values. We want to continue ourexisting work with local recovery champions and change agents andare delighted that our partnership with NHS Education for Scotlandwill continue for another year to support this. We'll also bebroadening our policy work to take on more of an influencing rolewithin and beyond the mental health sector.

I once characterised the desire to create a recovery focusedScotland as something akin to turning tankers and this is withoutdoubt a long term process of change. What I think we can see atthis stage of the journey is a significant shift in the mentalhealth discourse in Scotland. There is certainly no room forcomplacency when we know that many people do not have theopportunities for recovery and empowerment that they should andwhen the experience of using mental health services can still behugely variable. However, I think we do have grounds to beconfident that real progress has been made in our drive to ensurethat recovery is no longer the 'alien concept' described byactivist and author Ron Coleman.

We may never have a fully recovery focused service system orsociety - perhaps these are things we will always be striving for-  but SRN will continue to bring people together to continuethe change process, driven by an unerring belief and knowledge thatpeople can and do recover from even the most serious and long termmental health problems.