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Rethink Mental Illness: Recovery and Mental Wellbeing


Recovering from mental health issues can be a complex and ongoing process, but there are steps you can take to support your mental health and well-being.

Here is Rethink Mental Illness's guide to supporting individuals on their road to recovery.

What is recovery?

There is no widely accepted definition of recovery. Recovery means different things to different people.

Recovery can mean things like:

Aiming to be symptom free, aiming to cope with your symptoms better, working towards your symptoms being less severe, or managing your mental illness well to be able to live a meaningful life.

Recovery can be a short-term or long-term thing

As well as helping yourself, you might need help from others, like mental health and social care professionals or loved ones.

Recovery within the NHS mental health system is often referred to as the ‘recovery model.’ This model highlights the importance of building resilience in people with mental health problems. As well as the importance and role of family and professionals in supporting people’s identity and self-esteem.

People often see recovery in terms of:

Clinical recovery and personal recovery. There is often an overlap between them.

What does clinical recovery mean?

Your doctor might have talked to you about ‘recovery’. Some doctors and health professionals think of recovery as no longer having mental health symptoms, or a reduction of symptoms, which means you’re able to live a meaningful life. Sometimes this is called ‘clinical recovery.’

You may be under the care of an NHS mental health team. This can mean have people such as doctors, key workers, social workers or other professionals involved in your care. They should support you in achieving your recovery goals and what you think is important for your wellbeing.

Dealing with symptoms is important to a lot of people. But recovery can be wider than this and is often known as ‘personal recovery.’

What can personal recovery mean?

You might want to start personal recovery to help you to move towards living a meaningful life in line with your values.

The meaning of personal recovery is individual to you. You can think about what is important to you and what it means to you to live a ‘meaningful’ life. Think about what you would like to achieve and you can work towards your goals.

Below are some ways you can think about recovery

Taking steps to get closer to where you would like to be.

Feeling part of the local community and working with others to achieve a goal.

Achieving something that you find difficult to do, such as getting out of the house.

Thinking more usefully and positively.

Feeling settled with your treatment plan.

Feeling more in control of your life and emotions.

Having a better social life.

Being able to have a healthy friendships and relationships.

Having hope for the future.

Recovery is an ongoing process. It’s normal to have difficulties or setbacks along the way. But they can be an opportunity to learn or practice the skills you have developed in recovery.

You could describe yourself as ‘recovered’ at any stage in your recovery if you feel comfortable in doing so. You don’t need to wait for the ‘end’ or when you reach a certain goal.

What other things do I need to consider in my personal recovery journey?

We think people who are affected severely by mental illness need to access high quality treatment in a timely manner. But there are other important things too that can affect your mental health, such as:

Social connectedness, physical health, housing, finances and employment and volunteering.

We understand that a lack of support can make mental health problems worse. This can leave people not knowing where to turn.

We think it’s time that communities come together to play their part in helping people who live with mental illness. You can have a read more about this in our ‘Building communities that care’ report by clicking the following link:

It's important to remember, that recovery is possible when you have the correct knowledge and support. This includes receiving support from others like your friends, family, your care team or keyworker. Without support from others, recovery can sometimes be difficult.

What can help me recover?

There are different things that may help you recover. You should recover in a way that works for you. There is no right or wrong way to do so, it is a personal journey. Some people call this process a ‘recovery journey.’

The following areas may be helpful for you to explore as part of your recovery journey:

NHS support

Social care support




Identifying your values and setting achievable goals



Support groups


Rewarding yourself

There is more information about each of the above in this factsheet.

What support does the NHS provide?

There are different types of support and treatment that you can get from the NHS.

There are different services in the NHS that can support and treat you. The right one for you depends on the mental illness you have and how bad your symptoms are.

These services include:

GP services

Local NHS talking therapy services

Specialist NHS mental health teams

Crisis services

Hospital services

For more information, see our webpages on the following:

Talking therapies

NHS mental health teams

Medication – Choice and managing problems

Going into hospital for mental health treatment

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