Recovery, Hope and Agency: The Meaning of Hope amongst Chinese Users of Mental Health Services in the UK

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Hope is considered crucial to mental health recovery. However, the manner in which social inequalities shape individuals' meaning of hope has received little attention. Based on a close analysis of the recovery journeys of six Chinese service users in the UK, this paper explores the diverse meanings of hope among service users from non-dominant cultures. Illustrative stories are selected from in-depth life history interviews conducted with twenty-two participants. Based on the capabilities approach and intersectionality analysis, the findings reveal a paradox of hope and show how hope can be embraced, cautiously pursued or held at bay by individuals. Whilst hope is one expression of human agency, service users with reservations about hope maintain agency in other ways, despite their diminished life chances. This paper argues for an increased focus on individuals' agency development to support recovery and advocates for the challenging of inequalities to achieve this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-299
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
Early online date24 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Chinese
  • ethnic minorities
  • hope
  • inequalities
  • Mental health
  • recovery

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