Background: Self-determination has been strongly associated with engagement in positive health behaviours, emerging as an area of importance within mental health care (Craike & Coleman, 2005). People living with a mental illness, such as mood or affective disorders, report significantly low levels of this construct (Okon & Webb, 2014), experiencing diminished autonomy and self-directedness. This is unsurprising, given that people with a mental illness are regularly discriminated against and stigmatised, despite global efforts to reduce these prejudices.
Methods: Recovery Camp is an Australian-first, five-day therapeutic recreation initiative, developed in Wollongong, New South Wales. The project is ongoing and invites people with a range of serious and enduring mental health issues – a large portion of which report living with affective disorders – to engage in positive risk-taking and choice. This includes participation in challenging and rejuvenating activities that promote personal responsibility and self-management, thereby fostering the development of self-determination.
The present study utilises a mixed methods approach (surveys and interviews) to explore the impact of Recovery Camp on people living with affective disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. The influence of self-determination towards mental health recovery is explored in-depth, in the context of this initiative.
Results: Results to date suggest attendance at Recovery Camp significantly increases self-determination among people living with affective disorders, and this is maintained at follow-up. Interview findings highlight various themes regarding the association between self-determination and recovery.
Conclusion: People living with mental illness often report leading socially isolated, sedentary lives. Recovery Camp is an opportunity to step outside comfort zones. Therapeutic recreation initiatives of this variety have the potential to increase and maintain self-determination among people with a lived experience of depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders, and positively influence their recovery journey.