Mental health consumers are often socially isolated and may lack the basic leisure competencies which serve as a critical building block for community (re)integration. Therapeutic recreation (TR), as a treatment modality for people with mental illness, is yet to be fully embraced in the Australian health-care setting, despite having a strong historical foundation in North America. A team of academics created a TR experience, termed Recovery Camp, which was designed to collectively engage consumers and future health professionals drawn from a range of discipline areas.
The 2014 Recovery Camp was staged over a five day period and involved 28 adult consumers living with mental illness. Consumers undertook a diverse range of experiential recreation activities engineered to facilitate individual engagement and to encourage the development of positive therapeutic relationships and teamwork. The camp atmosphere was deliberately community-based and recovery-oriented, valuing the lived experience of mental illness.
Using a 2 × 3 design involving a camp and comparison group, the study sought to examine the influence of a TR programme on the self-determination of individuals with a mental illness. Those who participated in the Recovery Camp reported an increase in awareness of self and perceived choice post-camp, relative to the comparison group. While this difference remained significant for awareness of self at three-month follow-up, there was no significant difference in perceived choice between the two groups at follow-up. Study findings serve to support the role of recreation within a recovery framework to positively change the health-related behaviour of mental health consumers.