Recovering Your Mental Health, Page 1

Offering sound advice about recovering your mental health, this self help guide was prepared by Mary Ellen Copeland for the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).


Consumer self-care is becoming an important part of efficient and effective healthcare delivery. By exercising best practices of promoting wellness and preventing illness, informed consumers can dramatically improve outcomes and reduce costs. This strategy has been widely successful in primary healthcare delivery; yet, few efforts have been conducted in the mental health arena. There is clearly a defined need for information and guidance to assist mental health consumers to become better educated in the management of their own care.

This publication, Recovering Your Mental Health: A Self-Help Guide, identifies activities and strategies that people may use to help manage their own illnesses and services. This booklet is intended to support and enhance the nationwide focus on self-help for and recovery from mental health problems. It is based on the extensively-reported day-to-day experiences of people with psychiatric symptoms, and how they get well and stay well.

The booklet offers practical steps that people need to keep in mind as they work on their own recovery including: getting good medical care and treatment; ensuring effective medication decision-making and managing; using specific simple, safe, free or inexpensive tools to relieve symptoms; rebuilding and keeping a strong support system; developing and using a comprehensive plan to monitor and respond to symptoms as well as to maintain on-going wellness; and developing a lifestyle that enhances wellness.

It is important for mental health consumers to take part in all aspects of their own care and to have the tools and knowledge to do so. It is our hope that this booklet will provide self-help skills and strategies to assist people with mental health problems to achieve new levels of stability, recovery, and wellness.

Joseph H. Autry III, M.D. Acting Administrator
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Bernard S. Arons, M.D.
Director, Center for Mental Health Services


If you have troubling, uncomfortable, or severe emotional or psychiatric symptoms, this booklet contains helpful information on things you can do to help yourself feel better. It is complementary to, and not a replacement for, your professional treatment. Never stop taking medications without careful consideration and without getting the advice of your physician and other supporters. Never abruptly stop any medication. There are protocols which must be followed in stopping or changing medications.

Not all of the ideas in this booklet will work for everyone–use the ones that feel right to you. If something doesn’t sound right to you, skip over it. However, try not to dismiss anything before you have considered it.

The term health care provider in this booklet refers to any person or people you have chosen to provide you with health care.

Taking a Look at Yourself

Have you been told that you have a psychiatric or mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder or manic depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dissociative disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder or an anxiety disorder?

Do any of the following feelings or experiences make you feel miserable or get in the way of doing the things you want to do most or all of the time?

  • feeling like your life is hopeless and you are worthless
  • wanting to end your life
  • thinking you are so great that you are world famous, or that you can do supernatural things
  • feeling anxious
  • being afraid of common things like going outdoors or indoors, or of being seen in certain places
  • feeling like something bad is going to happen and being afraid of everything
  • being very “shaky,” nervous, continually upset and irritable
  • having a hard time controlling your behavior
  • being unable to sit still
  • doing things over and over again–finding it very hard to stop doing things like washing your hands, counting everything or collecting things you don’t need
  • doing strange or risky things — like wearing winter clothes in the summer and summer clothes in the winter, or driving too fast
  • believing unusual things — like that the television or radio are talking to you, or that the smoke alarms or digital clocks in public buildings are taking pictures of you
  • saying things over and over that don’t make any sense
  • hearing voices in your head
  • seeing things you know aren’t really there
  • feeling as if everyone is against you or out to get you
  • feeling out of touch with the world
  • having periods of time go by when you don’t know what has happened or how the time has passed — you don’t remember being there but others say you were
  • feeling unconnected to your body
  • having an unusually hard time keeping your mind on what you are doing
  • a sudden or gradual decrease or increase in your ability to think, focus, make decisions and understand things
  • feeling like you want to cut yourself or hurt yourself in another physical way

If you answered “yes” to the first question or answered “yes” to any of these experiences, this booklet is for you. It is designed to offer helpful information and suggest things you can do to feel better.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Overseen by an international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe, provides peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

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