To rewind a bit, it was the year 1996 and we were living and working in Wisconsin. My (late) husband, Randy Stratt, and I founded an all volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Health Action Network, which was dedicated to informing, empowering and inspiring individuals to become more involved in their health care. By providing community forums, surveying people across the state, holding town hall meetings, providing educational workshops, publishing a newsletter and spending countless hours (which turned to weeks and then to months and beyond) advocating for people to ask questions, seek second (and third and fourth) opinions and place real focus on choices regarding medications and treatment, we diligently sought to inform, empower and inspire people to become more involved in their health care, and to become active participants rather than passive recipients.
Health Action Network’s work wasn’t specific to mental health care – that integration and focus would come later. At the time, though, I was writing an article for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal and struggling to find a word that conveyed what I was attempting to address in the article. Frankly, I was stumped. Nothing worked or even really meant what I needed a word to mean. It was an incredibly strange place to be as a writer, needing a word that didn’t exist yet. Procovery came to me in a brainstorming session and I finally settled on it, not feeling that I had many other options. Procovery, a word that meant absolutely nothing to anyone as it wasn’t even a word at all, resonated with me enough to move forward, at least for the writing of the article. I thought it might end up being a space-filler, a stand-in, that would help me illustrate my point. It wasn’t anything beyond the word at the time, but what would come, the development of the concept and all that followed, were not something I could have fathomed.
Below is an excerpt from that article, What is Possible in Psychiatry: Five Psychiatric Steps That Mattered, published in the Spring 1996 edition of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal (Volume 19 Number 4), containing the first use of the word, Procovery, that would come to change the course of my life’s work.
As William Anthony (1993) describes, “Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purposes in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.” It may be that the general meaning of the word recovery stands in the way of this powerful concept; perhaps a new word such as procovery might be adopted to refer to the recovery of a productive life regardless of the level of health attainable.
Thank you, all, for taking this look into the early days with me. Stay tuned for The Wisconsin Days – Part Two!
Until next time,