Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Caring for people with a lived experience of mental illness in the greater treatment landscape has been a highly challenging and ethically disconcerting undertaking since early civilisation. Moves toward the deinstitutionalisation and remediation of mental health services around the world have resulted in health systems that seldom respects individual choice, the dignity of personal risk and individual empowerment. However, innovative treatment methods have developed to provide choice, enable risk and empowerment within the Australian national health priority area of ‘mental ill-health’.

Literature suggests that for those with a mental illness, disempowerment and learned helplessness are considered somewhat ‘normal’ within their typical lives. Consequently, most individuals with a lived experience of mental illness live at a significant disadvantage compared to the general population. These individuals experience a lack of control over their lives, mental health-related stigma, disempowerment, social isolation and a level of social undesirability due to their illness, as well as, the many other inherent challenges that come with living with a mental illness. For instance, average life expectancy and quality of life are significantly lower when compared to an individual living without mental illness.

The support and treatment for people with a lived experience of mental illness are designed to enhance their personal recovery. Personal recovery is a concept focused on an individual being able to live a purposeful and meaningful life while living with the symptoms of mental illness. While there are a variety of concepts that facilitate recovery (e.g. hope, sense of self), this thesis is focused on self-determination and resilience as key elements. Self-determination is viewed as the ability for an individual to have choice and control over their interactions and behaviours, while resilience is the ability to recover when faced with a challenge(s). People with a lived experience of mental illness typically possess low levels of both self-determination and resilience, which hinders their individual recovery journey. Therefore, the central idea within this thesis was to examine ways to facilitate change for these constructs of self-determination and resilience for people with a lived experience.

In essence, this study is focused on understanding human behaviour of people with a lived experience of mental illness. To gain insight into understanding the potential influence of an intervention or treatment modality on human behaviour, this study was grounded in Self-Determination Theory (SDT). SDT is a broadly used theory that has been applied to understand and support why people may or may not engage in health enhancing activities or behaviours. SDT posits that each individual and their level of self-determination (e.g. motivation) is influenced by how well their psychological needs are supported.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.