This monograph raises the vital issue of the role of relapse prevention in the recovery process for people who have been seriously affected by mental illness. While preventing further episodes of mental illness should be a routine component of treatment and continuing care for people with mental illness, feedback from consumers and carers shows that frequently this is not the case. Too often the experience of consumers, and their families and carers, is of a crisis-focussed mental health system that doesn't respond early enough to avert further episodes, nor prioritise rehabilitation and relapse prevention as essential components of ongoing continuing care to facilitate recovery. Although relapse prevention has traditionally been viewed as an illness-focussed approach, it is reconceptualised here as one of the essential components of a recovery-oriented mental health system.

Evidence from Australia and overseas—most importantly from lived experience, but also from rigorous research—shows that preventing further episodes of mental illness is possible for people who have been affected by mental illness. Where complete prevention is not possible, the duration and negative consequences of a further episode of illness can be substantially reduced. This monograph contributes to our understanding of effective approaches to relapse prevention across the lifespan and for people from diverse backgrounds. It reflects a wide range of views, but deliberately prioritises the lived experiences of consumers and their families and carers, as understanding this issue is vital to their ongoing wellbeing. The paper is a first step in finding ways to ensure that prevention is included as an essential component of continuing care within a recovery focussed mental health system.

Signature of Emeritus Professor Beverley Raphael

Emeritus Professor Beverley Raphael

Chair, National Mental Health Promotion and Prevention Working Party 1998-2005