Recovery is often described as a journey of personal discovery which includes new learning on how to live well.

Mental health recovery is a unique experience to each person, and is possible for everyone.

Here we share some information we think you might find useful to your own recovery journey.

Understanding recovery 

The most important thing to understand is that people can recover from a mental health problem and live a productive and fulfilling life.

So what exactly is recovery? Recovery has two different meanings in mental health. One is ‘clinical recovery’, which means a person no longer has any symptoms, in the way somebody might recover from the flu or a broken leg.

The second is ‘personal recovery’, which is what we focus on at Mind.

In our meaning, it’s a process whereby a person reclaims their right to a better life, whether or not – and this is the key point – the symptoms of mental ill-health are present.

It’s also unique. Only the individual can decide what that better life will look like for them. Often it involves choosing to live differently and having power over areas of life that used to seem unmanageable. 

Personal recovery is fundamentally positive. It focuses on a person’s strengths, values and preferences rather than on their illness. It’s about resilience and possibilities and its positivity creates hope.

It’s also realistic and practical. It’s about identifying and dealing with whatever’s getting in the way of people’s emotional wellbeing.

Recovery brings change, and change is challenging; but recovery also brings hope, inspiration and empowerment to people who may almost have forgotten what those things feel like. That helps them to meet any challenge.

Patricia Deegan PhD is a psychologist and researcher. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager and has for years worked with people with mental disorders to help them get better and lead rewarding lives.

See Patricia Deegan talk about recovery from mental disorders or read What is recovery? at Rethink Mental Illness, a UK organisation.

Here at Mind, we are always looking to deliver new innovations in recovery for people living with mental ill-health.  The Mind Recovery College® is one such innovation - a new service approach to supporting people on their mental health recovery journey. At The Mind Recovery College®, you are a student, not a patient or client. Its courses are produced by people with a lived experience of mental ill-health and recovery, drawing on their wisdom, knowledge and skills, as well as of families and carers.  When needed, people with professional learning and skills help them out. 

Negotiating treatment plans 

Most commonly, people have a new treatment plan when they first enter the treatment system; when they engage with a new treatment, care or support provider; and when (if) they’re going to be discharged into the community from a hospital admission.

The more involved you are in shaping your treatment plan, the better. You’re the expert in what goals you want to achieve through treatment. There are some simple – but very effective – steps you can take to make sure that your treatment plan works for you.

These include:

  • making sure enough time has been booked to do a thorough job – if you’re doing it with a GP, book at least a double appointment or plan to work together over several visits
  • having a think beforehand about what goals you want to achieve
  • asking that your goals are included in your plan
  • asking as many questions as you can about any treatment options that the health care professional suggests, for example:
    • “Will this help me achieve my goals?”
    • “Is it usually successful?”
    • “What does this treatment consist of?”
    • “Are there any risks?” (especially if you’re talking about medication)
    • “Where do I go for it?”
    • “What happens when it finishes?”
    • “How is it paid for?”

The idea is to get as much information as possible so that you can make an informed decision about including things in your plan. So ask as many questions as you need to. Think about making a list to take with you. If the other person uses jargon or words you don’t understand, ask them to explain what they mean (you can always take a friend, relative or other carer along for moral support). It's a good idea to ask for a copy of any notes, diagnosis or treatment plan made by the clinician.

It’s also a good idea to ask when your treatment plan will be reviewed. If you find it isn’t working, ask for it to be changed.

Check out the Getting organised for an inpatient stay checklist (PDF 45 KB) created by Mind.

Trauma informed care 

Trauma informed care (TIC) is a key part of recovery oriented practice.     

People receiving treatment for mental ill-health may have experienced significant trauma, including physical and sexual abuse, neglect and long-term emotional abuse such as domestic violence. Childhood trauma in particular can damage a person’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships and manage their emotions. It can also affect their educational performance and development towards maturity.

Trauma informed care has been developed to address the impacts of trauma. Doing this has made a difference to the way services operate and how support is delivered. For example:

  • Treatment should not cause additional trauma on a person or their family and carers, or re-awaken past trauma. Staff have to foster an emotionally safe environment that allows trauma survivors to rebuild a sense of control, safety and empowerment.
  • Service users are no longer passive recipients of ‘off the peg’ treatment; they’re now collaborators in treatment that’s tailored to each individual. This enhances the sense of choice and control that is often damaged by trauma.

In trauma informed practice, staff work with the person to identify problematic behaviour caused by trauma and help them to find healthy ways of changing or living with it. Forcing someone to confront a traumatic past is not part of TIC. It’s up to the individual to decide if and when they do that.

Family and other relationships 

Good relationships are important for everybody’s health and wellbeing. When it comes to mental health recovery, they’re vital.

Have you ever thought about your relationship with yourself? This means how you treat yourself. We all criticise and beat ourselves up sometimes, but life’s a lot easier if you’re generally nice to yourself and are your own best mate. People with good relationships with themselves look after themselves: they tend to eat healthily, exercise and don’t put themselves under pressure.

Connecting with peers (people who have similar experiences to you in recovery) can lead to wonderful relationships. There’s a lot of evidence that support from peers leads to reduced symptoms, increased ability to deal with stress and better outcomes in terms of housing, money and employment. Relationships with people who understand you and won’t judge you but will support you can be helpful.

Good relationships with relatives and friends can be very helpful, too. But mental illness can be confusing, frightening and disruptive to them, especially children.

The experience of talking through episodes of mental illness can often strengthen relationships: the shared experiences of dealing with the situation and then going into recovery can bring people closer together and increase their understanding of one another.

More good news. There’s a lot that can be done to mend relationships that have been put under pressure by mental illness.

For more information visit:

Suicide prevention 

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 49.  

Almost 10 million Australians know someone who has been impacted by suicide, that’s almost half the country.  

See below for important information that can be used when you or someone you know needs support to stay safe.   

If you require immediate support call 000 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.   

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can also call 13 YARN (13 92 76) a 24/7 national crisis support telephone service staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.   

Mind Australia is a member of Suicide Prevention Australia.  

Suicide prevention support services 

Safety planning and suicide prevention resources 

If you (or someone close to you) are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, safety planning can be really helpful in getting through the tough times.  

It involves creating a plan, ideally when you are well and with help from members of your support team (health professionals or family and friends), that you work through when you are unwell.  

Your safety plan starts with things you can do by yourself, such as thinking about your reasons to live and distracting yourself with enjoyable activities. It then moves on to coping strategies and people you can contact for support.  

While everyone’s plan will be unique, the process is the same: it prompts you to work through the steps until you feel safe. But remember to share it with your support people!  

My Better Life ® 

Mind Australia practitioners provide practical day-to-day and motivational support to help our clients develop the skills they need to move on, thrive, and improve the quality of their lives. 

We recognise that every recovery journey is unique and requires choice, flexibility and individualised client care. 

Mind has developed the My Better Life®  model to provide our clients with just that.  

Find out more about My Better Life.