Mental health is a state of well-being, feeling resilient, enjoying life and connecting with others.
Almost half of all Australian adults – 7.3 million people – will face mental ill-health at some point.
What is mental health?
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.
What is a mental illness?
Mental illness has a huge impact on every aspect of people’s lives. It affects behaviour, physical health, work and relationships, as well as the people around them. Mental illness refers to diagnosed conditions or disorders that impact on our mental health. The most common mental illnesses in Australia include:
- Mood disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Perinatal mental illness
What causes mental health issues?
There are many things that can cause mental health problems, and it is likely for many people there are a combination of factors. Any of the following examples could result in a period of poor mental health:
- Disruptive changes such as a new school or job
- Difficult childhood, neglect, trauma or abuse
- Loneliness or being socially excluded or targeted
- Financial hardship, losing your job and unemployment
- Homelessness or poor housing conditions
- Experiencing discrimination and harassment
- Bereavement when losing someone close to you
- Being a long-term carer for someone
- Domestic violence, or abuse, bullying
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Significant trauma or victim of a violent crime
- Physical causes – for example, a head injury or a neurological condition such as epilepsy can have an impact on your behaviour and mood.
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 behaviour – withdrawing from society, not engaging with others
- Anxiety or a feeling of nervousness, unease, worrying that typically occurs in the absence of an imminent threat
- Feeling depressed or unhappy
- Substance issues – reliance on drugs and alcohol.
Is there a difference between feeling anxious and anxiety?
Yes. An anxiety disorder is a repetitive feeling of nervousness that interferes with daily life. When someone has an anxiety disorder, they’re anxious so often that they can no longer carry out day-to-day activities. Feelings of nervousness, unease, or worry that do not disrupt our everyday life are normal feelings of anxiousness and anxiety.
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.