One of the common themes that emerges from stories of people who have recovered from mental illness, is that of Hope. In studies of consumer recovery stories, it has been found that having Hope for a better future is a major, if not essential element of recovery.

So, how do we help engender hope for someone living with mental illness? Here are 7 ways you can help a person find hope for their recovery.

1. Have Hope Yourself

We must first hold the hope that a person can recovery, even if they themselves do not. Even beyond ‘hope’, have a certainty that Recovery is possible. While we can never know for sure what the future will hold for a person, it definitely won’t happen if they don’t believe it is possible.

2. Say it

It sounds so simple, but many people have been told that they will always have a mental illness, that their condition is ‘chronic’ and that they cannot expect any better, essentially ‘this is as good as it gets’. Simply saying ‘recovery is possible’, can have a huge impact.


3. Look at the Statistics

There are plenty of longitudinal studies that show that over time, up to 68% of people will experience either total (clinical) recovery or significant improvements which are considered ‘psychological’, or ‘personal’ recovery. Those studies also show that we cannot predict which people will experience this recovery based on the severity of their symptoms at any one time. It doesn’t matter how bad it seems, Recovery can happen for anyone.

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4. Look at Others who have Recovered

For some people, the statistics may not be enough, but actually seeing, reading about, or meeting people who have recovered from mental illness can be a very powerful experience, and help them to have hope for their own future.

5. Help Create a Vision

Snyder and colleagues have studied Hope and found that there are 3 components of hope. The first is that people must have something to be hopeful for. As practitioners, we can help people to consider some of the things they would like to have for their life. Exploring personal values, what is important to the person can help them to identify a picture of how they would like their life to be (see next month’s newsletter for ways to explore values).

6. Set some Goals

It has been said ‘the tragedy in life does not lie in not achieving goals, but in having no goal to reach’. Sometimes we worry about setting people up for failure. While it is important to consider the timeframes we place on our goals, we do need to have something to strive towards. Research has shown that simply having a goal improves wellbeing, whether or not the person achieves it.

7. Build Self Confidence

The third of Snyder’s components of Hope is ‘agency’. This is the person’s own belief that they can achieve their goal. You can build agency by helping the person to identify all the things they have accomplished in the past. Help the person make a list, a song, or a drawing about those achievements. Ask them what their strengths are, or use strength cards, to help them identify their own internal and external resources.

Hopefully, we have given you some new ideas on how to help a person find Hope for recovery from mental illness. Do send us an email at to let us know how you go with these ideas, or if you have any others to suggest.


Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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