Hope - the Foundation of Mental Health Recovery

May 28, 2014 Mike Ehrmantrout

Mental health recovery is an exercise in hope. Hope—the earnest expectation of coming good. Hope is indispensable to our recovery. Hope can help us move away from the terror of defeat and despondency. It's not an abstract idea that makes no real difference in our recovery. It’s the cornerstone upon which the entire recovery foundation is built. There can be no recovery without hope.

Despair on the other hand, is a hellish pit we can find ourselves in if we are not careful.

When a person experiences despair, all hope is lost. The positive attitude is gone. The good self-talk disappears. The despairing person feels like nothing matters. It’s nearly impossible to convince this poor soul hope is possible again.

Recovery is Hard Work and Needs Hope

The truth is, recovery is hard work. I have to eat right, sleep right, think right, talk right, take my meds right, exercise right, keep all my doctor appointments, and educate myself and others about my illness. I have to avoid any and all things that would get in the way of my recovery. Worst of all, there’s no guarantee these things will make me feel better. Recovery is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage, commitment and yes, an abundance of hope.

Relapse and Failure in Mental Health Recovery

Mental health recovery requires hope in order to keep going and to press on. An absence of hope can cause despair which can signify relapse in our recovery.But what happens when we do everything right in recovery and it just doesn’t seem to be helping? This is a perilous place to find yourself in. After all, you’ve done everything that all the experts said to do. You have worked very hard, but somehow your recovery has turned into relapse. You’re discouraged and angry. This is when despair can set in.

It’s hard to believe and accept you can recover again. Perhaps the biggest question we might ask ourselves is why? Why should I continue on this road to recovery when I’ve already experienced that it doesn’t always work the way I need it to?

Hope says, “I believe there’s a treatment out there for me. I believe if I don’t give up, there’s a good chance I will feel better in the future.”

Despair says, “I will not make it. There’s no point. Life is horrible and it will never be anything else.”

If today you find yourself despairing and hopeless, I wish to offer some hope. I’ve been dealing with this illness for over 20 years. I’ve seen some amazing victories and some horrific defeats. I’ve embraced hope, and I’ve embraced despair to the point of a suicide attempt. Twenty years and I only recently found the correct medication at the correct dose to treat my depression.

Hope Promises a Future Reward

The wonderful thing about hope is that it promises a future reward. What do you need to be rewarded with? Love? Acceptance? Understanding? A reduction of your pain? These things do exist, though, you may not have experienced them yet. You will never experience these wonderful aspects of life if you give in to despair.

If you’ve fallen into despair, please communicate this with someone you trust. Don’t wait until your next therapy appointment. It’s literally a matter of life and death. You must understand that there are many people who really do care about you and your situation. Find them. They do exist. Don’t wait for them to find you.

The fact that you are reading this article probably shows you still have a glimmer of hope left. Sometimes, a little spark is all you need to start a huge fire.

Visit Mike on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

APA Reference
Ehrmantrout, M. (2014, May 28). Hope - the Foundation of Mental Health Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Mike Ehrmantrout

June, 20 2020 at 6:35 pm

I am e-learning about helping others with mental ill health. Reding this article made me feel much better as the person who wrote it had a really good understanding of the problem. I wish more people can access it and learn about hope. There is HOPE. Belive it. It is possible. Better days are possible. Happines is possible. Go to the forest. Sit down. Look around. What do you hear. What do you see. This is the sense of life. I believe in you. You can be yourself again. x

June, 22 2020 at 1:22 pm

Thank you so much for such a powerful message of hope. It's not always easy to see when we're dealing with mental illness, but you're right, it is there. Thanks for being a light in the world <3

July, 20 2018 at 11:39 am

There seems to really be no hope. Trying to find it when your brain doesn't respond. Being alone is better than being hurt. It is what it is in my life.

Julie simmons
July, 10 2014 at 7:42 am

I recognized myself in others who were honest with themselves about their mental health concerns, sought treatment "that I thought was very extreme for my minor case"-even against my parents wishes when I opened up and consulted them, started medication though I had swore I never would again and shared with trusted friends and a few coworkers who I thought would benefit from my rough ride to peace! I am glad to say I am on the other side of that ugly place I had within myself, but it makes itself known occasionally and I recognize that slippery slope and reel myself in to better "mental hygiene". A facilitator in a group I attended spoke of how "it is OK not to be Ok" which puzzled me but I get what she meant by how we tend to panic when we are feeling unwell and it is a beast that grows with any thought, mood, outside/inside influence that is NOT aimed at self love and healing. So when I find myself not ok...I tell myself in the KIND voice I would use toward friends, loved ones or even strangers...Let's take a couple breaths. Then I self check the emotions I am experiencing and ask if there is anything I can do to resolve or comfort. When I am smooth sailing again, I try to look back at whatever lead up to that disruption. I have learned to let a few more people into my feels good to like and be liked...enjoying everyday things and sharing them. I hadn't realized how much I missed simple pleasures, recognizing there is worth in MY company to others and how much energy a little fellowship can supply. The word hope used to make me cry because I had none. Now I can say it is there, do not give up! Ps: there are people in our circle that are toxic. There are also folks that love us but have NO idea what to say or do because they do not understand. Hugs to all : )

June, 7 2014 at 2:36 pm

I have come to terms with being bipolar. I do not hope for a cure, but I'm by no means despairing. My new Christian faith helps. And my shrink and my lithium. Life is rich and always interesting.

Leave a reply