Whole Life Whole Systems Community Based Approach

Introduction: Philosophy and Values of Whole Life-Recovery

We believe that:
Everyone should have an opportunity to enter into “recovery processes”, the main goal of which is to enable people to participate more fully as a citizen within their community. This value is based on:
  • a partnership of equals between people, communities and services.
  • People having  the right to benefit from opportunities in local communities and to be included in all aspects of society.
  • Relationships should be based on trust between mental health workers, service users and people who care for/about them.
  • Workers adopt an “holistic approach” that goes beyond the reliance on traditional service responses and treatments.
As can be seen from the above the adoption of recovery values are not too difficult to accomplish.They are a reminder, to many practitioners, of the reason they entered into their career to promote wellness for people who experience “mental distress/illness”. It is certainly the case that the majority of the helping professionals and services believe that they can make a difference in people’s lives.
Therefore recovery not only applies to individuals that come for help, but also to the recovery of those that care for them, whether formally or informally.
In order for people with mental health issues to have a good “quality of life” they need to be able to access to a full range of Whole Life Recovery community opportunities and resources. This includes but is not limited to:
Health and social care providers
Housing agencies
Educational facilities
Employers and employment services
Sport and leisure
Art and culture
Social media


Deinstitutionalisation is not only downsizing or even closing psychiatric hospitals, but undertaking a complex process of removing the ideology and power of the institution by putting the person first – with his/her subjectivity, needs, life story, significant relationships, social networks, social capital – above the institution.
In order to do that, it is necessary to remove the power of institutions over people with mental health problems. This requires a shift of resources from hospitals to a range of community based services founded on the whole life needs of the person. This approach opens pathways of care and programmes that integrate social and health responses and actions. Deinstitutionalisation is therefore a whole change of systems, thinking and practice, that aims at overcoming the old psychiatric ideology while creating a new way of supporting community mental health and supporting the self determination,resilience and strengths of people with mental health problems.

Whole Person

A person with a mental health problem has the same basic human needs as all of us. Recognising the whole person is the way to develop and lead a life that is full of purpose, interest, recognition, contribution, value and reward. People with a mental health problem are seeking a whole life comprising of these needs and aspirations. Enabling people to have a whole life opportunity and assisting them in their recovery and wellbeing requires full access to health, educational opportunities, vocational training schemes, work, volunteering, social networks, sport and leisure, art and culture and faith and religion.

Whole system

The IMHCN Whole Life approach promotes this by applying a Whole Systems methodology in the design, planning and implementation of a comprehensive integrated mental health system. The Whole system has to have an agreed common purpose and objectives negotiated and owned by all community stakeholders. In this way the components of the System are interdependent with each other and have themselves a well defined contribution to the Whole System. The Whole is the most important objective and not each component on their own.

Whole Community

This approach actively benefits from a local communities human, economic, social and cultural resources. All communities have the potential to provide significant opportunities for individuals and families to continue or regain a whole life in all its domains. Ensuring the active participation of organisations and individuals from communities in designing and implementing a whole life whole system strategy lies at the core of the success of this approach.
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