Past research provides clear evidence to support the proposition that leisure broadly is a principal life domain in terms of one’s health and well-being.
Leisure engagement is, therefore, particularly important for those who, for various reasons, lack positive life experiences. This being particularly true for persons suffering mental health problems as many of the negative symptoms, stereotypes, and stigma associated with different clinical diagnostic categories make the attainment of positive life experiences an ongoing daily challenge.
Thus, when attempting to (re)integrate individuals with mental illnesses back into community, the need to provide greater access to positive therapeutic recreation experiences cannot be overstated for it is the person-centered factors such as locus of control, that contribute the most to the multifaceted nature of well-being (Pegg & Moxham, 2000). That stated, it has been recognized that globally the quality of services for individuals with a mental illness remain fragmented, disconnected, and largely inadequate (Iwasaki, Coyle & Shank, 2010).
Importantly, research to date has suggested however, that when individuals take greater control of their lives, they suffer less illness, are better able to cope with life stresses, and have lower rates of recidivism (Coleman, 2000). It can be argued therefore that appropriately planned therapeutic recreation programs need be a key component of any health service as such interventions serve to provide potential sources of social support for people with a mental illness, offering opportunities for individuals to relax with peers, make friends, and improve relations with family and spouse (Bruseker & O’Halloran, 1999; McCormick & Hale-Fought, 1999). Thus, how therapeutic recreation services suitably support the individual becomes a critical consideration as stress and lack of social supports are factors that can lead to an exacerbation of symptomatology and thus, a deterioration in mental wellness for individuals with a mental illness.
As noted by Power (2010), recovery from mental illness is about peers, it is about social inclusion, and it is a unique path that need be followed by each individual who is on the journey of mental health recovery. A journey that Power (2010, p.114) described as “a journey of healing and transformation that enables individuals with mental health problems to live in the community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential.” Clearly, therapeutic recreation services can be for many individuals an integral part of that journey and is one that need be embraced more fully if individuals with mental illnesses are to be successfully (re)integrated back into community life.
Sourced from: Stumbo, N., Wilder, A., Zahl, M., DeVries, D., Pegg, S., Greenwood, J. (2015). Community integration: Showcasing the evidence for therapeutic recreation services. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, XLIX(1), 35-60.
Shane Pegg PhD MSc MBA l Senior Lecturer l RHD Co-ordinator, Tourism Cluster l UQ Business School