Self-care is an important approach to the management of long-term health conditions and in preventing ill-health by living a healthy lifestyle. The concept has been used to a limited extent in relation to mental health, but it overlaps with the related concepts of recovery, self-management and self-help. These related concepts all entail individuals having more choice and control over treatment and a greater role in recovery and maintaining their health and well-being. This paper reviews qualitative empirical research that provides information on the nature of self-care in mental health from the perspective of people experiencing mental health problems. Twenty qualitative studies were identified from a systematic search of the literature. The methods used in these studies were critically appraised and key themes across studies identified self-care behaviours and processes supporting self-care. The paper also highlights challenges to this approach in mental health and provides a conceptual framework of the relationships between self-care support, self-care behaviours and strategies, and well-being for the individual. It also highlights limitations in the current evidence base and identifies areas for future research.