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Recovery and mental health


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Most people who are diagnosed with a mental illness recover, but it can be difficult to predict when, or to what extent, you are going to get better. A range of services can help you recover.

What is mental health recovery?

Recovery 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.

Recovery is about all of your life, not just your symptoms. It involves:

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

What is the ‘recovery approach’ to mental health?

The ‘recovery approach’ to mental illness is about helping you take control of your own life.

When you take the recovery approach, you work as a team with your doctor and other health professionals to make joint decisions about how to manage your mental health.

Promoting a recovery approach to mental healthcare is part of Australia’s national mental health strategy. It sets out six key questions 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 and promote self-responsibility?
  2. Real choices: Are you given enough information to make informed choices about care and treatment?
  3. Attitudes and rights: Are your legal and human rights advised, respected and promoted?
  4. Dignity and respect: Do you feel welcome at the service?
  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 your recovery goals?

What is a mental health recovery plan?

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

  • work out what sort of life you want to lead
  • work out what you can do to get there
  • keep track of changes in your mental health
  • identify and manage things that might make your mental state worse (triggers)

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.

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.

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.

Support is also available from:

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Last reviewed: November 2019

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