Mental health & mental illness

According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is a state of emotional and social well-being in which a person can fulfil his or her abilities, cope with normal stresses of life, work productively or fruitfully and be able to make a contribution to his or her community. With sound mental health, we feel good in ourselves and are able to get on with our life smoothly. Whereas problems with mental health can affect our feelings, thoughts and actions as well as our performance and enjoyment in a range of life areas (e.g. school, work and relationships).

Mental health problems are common health complaints that may cause distress and can interfere with our enjoyment of life.  Feeling down, tense, angry and being anxious are symptoms of a mental health problem. We all suffer from mental health problems over the course of life. They are usually understandable reactions to personal and social problems and are not too severe or long lasting.

What is mental illness?

When mental health problems continue for long periods of time and begin to severely affect a person's daily life it is possible a mental illness has developed. Mental illness refers to a range of specific conditions, which affect a person's thoughts, feelings, actions and mental functioning. It is usually more severe and longer lasting than mental health problems and causes more distress and disruption to a person's life. Where a mental health problem ends and a mental illness begins, is often hard to judge. There are many different types of mental illness and each has its own specific pattern of symptoms.

What are the signs?

Although mental illness can occur at any age, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders and psychotic illnesses often commence in adolescence or early adult life. Most illnesses develop gradually over a period of weeks or months, however, some develop quite quickly, usually as a result of a stressful life event. These may be one-off problems, occur on a recurring (episodic) basis through out a person's life, or lead to ongoing persistent illness.

What are the causes of mental illness?

There can be no single cause for mental illness. It is usually a combination of genetic predisposition, personality traits, environmental conditions, current stress levels and coping styles.

How is mental illness treated?

Depending upon the onset, duration and characteristics of the mental illness, it can be treated via counselling (from a psychologist, psychiatrist or trained counsellor) or medication. A combination of counselling and medication has been seen to be very effective in treating psychological disorders.

 

Mental health information by Headspace

Headspace is a youth friendly, community based health service for young people 12 - 25 and their families. This website provides information about mental health, the causes of mental illness, how to get help, fact sheets and mental health tips.

http://headspace.org.au/get-info/what-is-mental-health/

A mental health fact sheet in various languages by Mental Health in Multicultural Australia

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Fact sheets about mental health are available in twenty-three different languages.

http://www.mhima.org.au/resources-and-information/Translated-information/translated-mental-health-information-resources

Information on mental health issues by Reach Out!

Reach Out! has information on mental health including depression, anxiety, OCD and personality disorders.

http://au.reachout.com/tough-times/mental-health-issues

Mental illness information - Victorian Government Department of Health

Victorian State Government mental health services website has information on mental illness including myths, misunderstandings, what can be done about the stigma surrounding mental illness and where to go for help.

http://www.health.vic.gov.au/mentalhealth/illnesses.htm

For people with a mental health problem, there may be periods of time when things are not manageable. Stress, traumatic events or changes in medication can trigger further symptoms of their illness. 

If you are concerned that your friend is not behaving as they normally would, then it is important to encourage them to talk to someone they trust like their doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. If you think that your friend is likely to hurt themselves or someone else get help immediately even if your friend doesn't want you to.

When someone becomes extremely unwell, it can be distressing and confusing for others, as well as the person concerned. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Communicate clearly in an honest, understanding manner. Do not crowd, rush or unnecessarily touch the person.
  • Provide a calm, safe environment. Move to quieter, more open surroundings. If necessary, remove items with which the person might use to harm themselves or others.
  • Seek help from a doctor, Psychiatric Emergency Team or the police.
  • Try to behave in a quietly confident manner. Be firm but friendly and unthreatening. Reassure that help is on its way.

Fact sheet about helping someone with a mental illness by SANE Australia

SANE conducts innovative programs and campaigns to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their family and friends.  SANE has a fact sheet about assisting someone with a mental illness.

Reference: Reach Out! website

Headspace

A community based service for people aged 12 - 25 and their families, Headspace provides help for issues including health, education, work, mental health and drug & alcohol use.

http://www.headspace.org.au

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHMA)

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

http://www.mhima.org.au/

Reach Out!

An initiative of the Inspire Foundation, Reach Out! is a web based service that provides information, support and interactive features to help young people get through tough times.

http://au.reachout.com/

SANE Australia

SANE conducts innovative programs and campaigns to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their family and friends. It also operates a busy telephone helpline and website.

http://www.sane.org

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