Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

“Nothing's changed, baby”: How the mental health narratives of people with multiple and complex needs disrupt the recovery framework

Llewellyn-Beardsley, Joy; Rennick-Egglestone, Stefan; Callard, Felicity; Pollock, Kristian; Slade, Mike; Edgley, Alison

“Nothing's changed, baby”: How the mental health narratives of people with multiple and complex needs disrupt the recovery framework Thumbnail


Joy Llewellyn-Beardsley

Felicity Callard

Professor of Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion


The dominant narrative in mental health policy and practice has shifted in the 21st century from one of chronic ill health to a ‘recovery’ orientation. Knowledge of recovery is based on narratives of people with lived experience of mental distress. However the narratives of people experiencing structural inequalities are under-represented in recovery research. Meanwhile, uses of recovery narratives have been critiqued by survivor-researchers as a co-option of lived experience to serve neoliberal agendas. To address these twin concerns, we undertook a performative narrative analysis of two ‘recovery narratives’ of people with multiple and complex needs, analysing their co-construction at immediate/micro and structural/macro levels. We found two contrasting responses to the invitation to tell a recovery story: a narrative of personal lack and a narrative of resistance. We demonstrate through reflexive worked examples how the genre of recovery narrative, focused on personal transformation, may function to occlude structural causes of mental distress and reinforce personal responsibility in the face of unchanging living conditions. We conclude that unacknowledged epistemological assumptions may contribute to co-constructing individualist accounts of recovery. A critical, reflexive approach, together with transparent researcher positionality, is imperative to avoid the epistemic injustice of a decontextualised form of recovery narrative.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 5, 2023
Online Publication Date May 26, 2023
Publication Date 2023-12
Deposit Date May 19, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 19, 2023
Journal SSM - Mental Health
Electronic ISSN 2666-5603
Publisher Elsevier BV
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Article Number 100221
Keywords Mental health; Recovery narratives; Epistemology; Substance use; Homelessness; Sex working; Narrative inquiry; Narrative analysis; Trauma
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations