Definitions of the terms applied within the continuing care segment of the spectrum are not universally agreed. However, a common language is required to enable discussion and to provide a platform for progress, and the following definitions are offered.

  • Recovery is "the development of new meaning and purpose in one's life as one grows beyond the ... effects of mental illness" (Anthony 1993). It means maximising wellbeing, within the constraints that might be imposed by symptoms of mental illness. 2

  • Self-management refers to the personal day-to-day management of a health condition and incorporates many health promotion and consumer education elements. It comprises managing one's health, life roles and emotions. This involves skills of problem-solving, decision making, resource use, forming partnerships with service providers, planning, and self-tailoring health actions and interventions to be personally relevant.3

  • Rehabilitation is also known as psychiatric rehabilitation and is a set of targeted interventions that are intended to prevent further, or reduce the disability that is associated with, mental health problems. It is a process of assisting people to acquire and use the strengths and skills, supports, and resources necessary for successful and satisfying living, learning and working in the environments of their choice.4

  • Relapse prevention entails maximising wellness for people with mental illness by reducing the likelihood and impact of relapse. It involves empowering people with mental illness to recognise early warning signs of relapse and develop appropriate response plans. It requires identifying risk and protective factors for mental health, and implementing interventions that enhance protective factors and eliminate or reduce the impact of risk factors. Relapse prevention is based on communication and understanding between the person experiencing mental illness, their family and carers, primary health care, the specialist mental health system and community support services about access to support and treatment alternatives to prevent illness. Relapse prevention is an essential, but not sufficient, component of the recovery process for people with mental illness.

  • Mental health promotion is about optimising people's mental health by creating environments that support wellbeing, understanding that mental health is affected by the events that happen in our everyday lives, as well as the stressful events that inevitably occur from time to time. All environments—social, physical, economic and cultural—need to be supportive of mental health. Mental health can be promoted by ensuring that public policies support the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals and groups. Community life is also important and communities need to be empowered to take the actions that they decide are needed to build their capacity to support their members. Individuals and groups need to develop skills to understand, enhance and respond to their mental health needs. Furthermore, mental health services have a responsibility for promoting the wellbeing of individuals and communities, as well as treating illness.5