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Recovery and mental health

5-minute read

Recovery from mental health is the process of getting well, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and creating a satisfying life for yourself. Most people who are diagnosed with a mental illness recover with the right support.

A range of services can help you recover and what’s needed will be different for every person. What is common to everyone with mental health issues is the sooner you seek help and treatment, the better your possibilities for recovery.

What is mental health recovery?

Recovery from mental health is not the same as a cure. Recovery means being able to create and live a meaningful life and contribute to your community, with or without mental health issues. This is sometimes called ‘personal recovery’.

Recovery is about all of your life, not just treatment and management of your symptoms (which is ‘clinical recovery’). It involves:

  • finding hope, and developing self-esteem and resilience
  • having a positive sense of self
  • having a sense of purpose and meaning in your life
  • building healthy relationships
  • gaining independence
  • understanding your skills and limitations

What is the ‘recovery approach’ to mental health?

The ‘recovery approach’ to mental illness is about helping you take control of your own life. You decide what is important for you and what you would like your life to look like, not just in terms of mental illness symptoms, but holistically.

When you take the recovery approach, you work as a team with your doctor and other health professionals to work out how to achieve your goals and how to manage your mental health. You are at the centre of your care, and it will be personal and unique to you.

Promoting a recovery approach to mental healthcare is part of Australia’s national mental health strategy. It sets out 6 key principles that can help you ensure that mental health services are helping your recovery:

  1. Uniqueness of the individual: Do you feel supported to build on your unique strengths to live a satisfying life?
  2. Real choices: Are you given enough information to make informed choices about care and treatment? Are you being supported to take as much responsibility as you can?
  3. Attitudes and rights: Are your legal and human rights advised, respected and promoted? Are you supported to develop activities that are meaningful to you?
  4. Dignity and respect: Do you feel welcome at the service? Are your culture and beliefs respected?
  5. Partnership and communication: Does the service proactively involve you in all aspects of care planning and treatment with a recovery focus?
  6. Evaluating recovery: Are you involved in reviewing and assessing your recovery goals?

What is a mental health recovery plan?

A mental health recovery plan (also called a wellness recovery action plan (WRAP)) is designed to help you:

  • work out what sort of life you want to lead
  • work out what you can do to get there
  • find your strengths and interests
  • work out who are your supporters
  • keep track of changes in your mental health
  • identify and manage things that might make your mental state worse (triggers)
  • have a crisis plan in case you relapse and things get worse
  • have a plan for when the crisis is over

For example, you might decide you want to live on your own, find a part-time job or reconnect with your family. Together with your mental health team, you can work out how best to get what you want, and what help you need along the way.

What else can I do to help my recovery?

Supporting your physical health with healthy eating, regular physical activity and enough restful sleep will always have positive effects on your mental wellbeing.

Taking medication as directed, and reporting any side effects or problems to your doctor or specialist is another aspect of recovery. Making sure you attend regular appointments is also important.

Avoid alcohol and drug use — they make mental health conditions worse.

Learning skills like mindfulness can help with stress management.

How do I get help with my recovery?

Many mental health services can help with your recovery. The first step is to see your doctor, who can give you advice and refer you to local services. You can also search for services. SANE Australia has a guide to services that can help with recovery from mental illness.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, your doctor can help you get affordable access to other health professionals, such as psychologists — see our mental health care plan page.

Where to get help

Support is also available from:

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Last reviewed: February 2022

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