The term mental health is used to describe our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It means we can cope with normal stresses, and feel able to contribute to our community. Most of us will experience problems with our mental health at some stage in our lives, and almost half of all Australians aged 16 to 85 years, will experience mental illness.
Mental illness refers to diagnosed conditions or disorders that impact on our mental health. The most common mental illnesses in Australia include mood disorders (also known as affective disorders), such as depression and bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. Other common mental illnesses include psychotic illnesses (such as schizophrenia) and perinatal mental illnesses, amongst others.
Causes of mental illness
There are a range of social and biological factors that can increase our susceptibility to mental health problems or illnesses. Social factors can include disruptive changes, such as a new school or job, a difficult childhood, problems at home or in the workplace, or being socially excluded or targeted. Biological factors can include genetics, family history, infections or damage to the brain, and the use of drugs and alcohol.
Signs of concern
It’s important to seek help to address mental health concerns as they arise, before they become more serious mental illnesses. Some signs of a mental health issue include:
- Issues with sleep – sleeping too much, or not enough
- Changes in behavior – withdrawing from society, not engaging with others
- Worrying, fear or anxiety
- Feeling depressed or unhappy
- Substance issues – reliance on drugs and alcohol.
There are many things we can do to give us a good foundation for positive mental health, such as communicating openly to friends and family, eating healthy foods, moderating our alcohol intake, and exercising regularly.
However, those things alone will not adequately address a mental illness – often medical or psychological treatment is needed. Each individual will differ, but the first step is always to seek help as soon as possible.
If you’re struggling with your emotions or mental health you can call MindHealth on 1300 029 131 or access online counselling and speak to one of our experienced counsellors who can help you to get back on track.
More detail on some of the most common mental health issues people experience can be found in the categories below:
There are times when we all feel worried or stressed. This is completely normal and typically occurs when we find ourselves under pressure. However when those feelings don’t go away, or when they occur for no particular reason, that it may be an indicator of an underlying anxiety disorder condition.
Depression is the intense feeling of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability that is ongoing – lasting weeks, months or even years. Depression can have a big impact on our daily life, long term physical and mental health, work, and relationships. Depression is treatable, and help is available to recognise the signs, and address it.
Grief, loss and bereavement takes many forms. You may lose a job, go through a relationship break up, or someone you care about may have passed away. Grief is a natural response to loss and while it’s hard, help from loved ones or health professionals can help you work through it.
Stress is completely normal and part of being human. Technically speaking, being stressed out isn’t a mental health condition but if it’s not managed correctly, experiencing continued stressors can lead to other mental health issues. So, it’s important to manage your stress relief before it evolves into a bigger problem.