Pathways of recovery: preventing further episodes of mental illness (monograph)

What do we need to do to incorporate relapse prevention into continuing care?

Page last updated: 2006

Relapse prevention must become a routine component of continuing care for all people who have been seriously affected by mental illness. It needs to be incorporated alongside rehabilitation as one of the tools within a recovery oriented mental health care system. Relapse prevention should commence at the earliest possible opportunity, even during treatment of the first episode, and then be adapted according to each person's changing needs across the lifespan, across the course of their ongoing experience of mental health and mental illness, and across changing life circumstances.

Relapse prevention initiatives are currently incorporated within some mental health services, however, the approach needs to become routine practice and to do this change needs to occur at many levels of the mental health care system. Comprehensive implementation of the elements that enable effective relapse prevention is required.

The actions required to implement relapse prevention are apparent and have been listed as outcomes in the National Mental Health Plan 2003-2008. They comprise many of the components that make up good clinical care and effective aftercare and continuing care. These include: real participation and partnerships with consumers and their families and carers; access to services and service responsiveness; workforce development; and ongoing monitoring, evaluation and research. While the required outcomes that would enable the implementation of relapse prevention are evident in the Plan, what is not made explicit is how these outcomes apply specifically to a focus on preventing relapse, which will be considered here.

Empowering consumers and their families and carers through participation and partnerships

Service access and responsiveness

Workforce development

Information: monitoring, evaluation and research