What does recovery mean?

Recovery and using a recovery approach is talked about in the mental health sector, A LOT. But, what does Recovery even mean? Why is it so important? How does it help you to support others? Does it mean everyone with a mental health problem can “recover” and that we teach you during Mental Health First Aid how to help someone recover? Well, we can answer some of those questions…

We teach Recovery as a key mental-health principle in our mental health first aid training, and show how people can support others using a recovery oriented approach. It is really important to us, and we use a recovery oriented approach when providing support coordination.

Recovery is often described as a personal journey. As a personal journey it means different things to different people.  

There is no doubt that recovery is a unique experience. However, in saying that, when people who are in recovery from mental illness share their experiences there are several common elements that seem to come up time and time again. We have broken them down here. They are, that: 

  • Everyone can recover from mental illness in their own way
  • Recovery is about having hope for the future and working towards what is important to you  
  • Recovery is not always a linear process and there may be ups and downs in people’s recovery journey 
  • Recovery does not necessarily mean an absence of symptoms or cure 
  • Recovery is an ongoing process and about someone as a whole person 
  • Recovery is about resilience, a person’s overall well being and having the tools for self-care 

Just as recovery means different things to different people, there are a range of different approaches and services that can support people in working towards their recovery goals (or helping them to identify what these are). 


It can be helpful for people to build a team that they  think can help them on their recovery journey. This could be a combination of health professionals, such as those in the medical profession like a psychiatrist and other supports you find helpful such as a peer support group. Sometimes it is about trying new things to see what works (or doesn’t work) for someone. It can also be useful for people to know that they have support available if they need it in the future.  


When you are providing mental health first aid to someone with a mental health problem, knowing where someone is in their Recovery journey can really help. Some people may not have heard about the idea of recovery, so it is good to know where to go to get resources. 

If you want to read more on recovery, there are several good resources out there. Ones we have found include: 

  •  Health Direct website – This website is a great first point of contact for an overview. Click here to go to their website. 
  • Mind Australia – They have some good resources on recovery. Click here to go to their website. 
  • The SANE website – They have a blog post including a video on recovery where people share what recovery means to them. Click here to access the page.  

“Recovery means to me that I have the inner strength to focus on my wellness.  In many ways for me it is about embracing possibility, acceptance of things I cannot change and the discovery of new knowledge that gives me the feelings of stability and wholeness”  

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