Skip to main content
Table of contents

Give hope of recovery

Most people who receive treatment and ongoing support for a mental illness can learn to adapt their life to the illness (seen as recovery). It is important for mental health professionals to give patients hope of recovery, acknowledging that the term ‘recovery’ has different meanings for different people and is better conceptualised as a personal journey rather than as an having an end point.20 In supporting people on their personal journey to recovery, the external environment (including services providing treatment and care) also has a role to play in assisting with the recovery journey. For example, GPs might focus on the individual by:

  • acknowledging his/her strengths, talents, interests and limitations
  • acknowledging his/her rights to full partnership in all aspects of their recovery
  • promoting the rights of people to make choices regarding their own desired goals and outcomes
  • projecting a belief in the inherent capacity of the individual to recover.21

While it can be the case for some people, recovery in a mental health context doesn’t necessarily mean being rid of all symptoms or returning to function without the symptoms first presented (as it might be for a person recovering from influenza or a chest infection, for example). Rather, a person’s sense of self might include the mental illness but is not determined by it. Their recovery process is fostered by components of hope, self-identity, meaning in life and responsibility.21

Is your patient struggling to see past their mental illness/issue/condition and thoughts of suicide?

‘It is possible for you to get through this.’

‘You managed to get through [insert previous life challenge], so I am confident you will be able to find a way through this.’

‘I have worked with lots of other people who experienced similar feelings to you, and we have found a way through.’

‘Living with a mental health issue is only one small part of you … don’t forget to think about your strengths and other positive aspects about who you are.’

Recovery for individuals with mental illness can mean gaining and retaining hope, understanding one’s abilities and disabilities, engaging in an active life, developing personal autonomy, developing a social identity, connecting meaning and purpose in life, and fostering a positive sense of self.22


  1. Parker J. Recovery in mental health. S Afr Med J 2014;104(1):77.
  2. Lloyd C, Waghorn G, Williams PL. Conceptualising recovery in mental health rehabilitation. Br J Occup Ther 2008;71(8):321–28.
  3. Department of Health. Principles of recovery oriented mental health practice. Canberra: DoH, 2010. [Accessed 3 March 2016].


Suicide prevention and first aid a resource for GPs