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Mental health disorders

Overview

Mental health disorder describes a wide range of disorders such as depression, anxiety, stress, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Each disorder varies in its severity.

The effect of mental illness can be severe on the individuals and families concerned, and its influence is far-reaching for society as a whole.

If you are concerned about your mental health or that of a family member, the first stop should be your doctor where you can find out which therapies and treatments are available.

Don't feel worried about going to your doctor as they are able to help with both your mental and physical health. They will also direct you to the most appropriate treatment.

Sources: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Mental Health Services in Australia), NHS Choices, UK (One in four affected)

Just diagnosed

Your mental health is important. Some mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are common. If you have such an illness, it's important to get the right treatment.

Mental health-related services are provided in Australia in a variety of ways including:

  • hospitalisation and other residential care
  • hospital-based outpatient services and community mental health care services
  • consultations with doctors and specialists.

More serious mental health problems, such as manic depression and schizophrenia, require specialist care. Your doctor will refer you to a specialist called a 'psychiatrist' who will be able to care for these serious health problems.

If you and your doctor agree that you would benefit from medication, there are various options that can help with conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, mania and other mental health problems.

Sources: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Mental Health Services in Australia), NHS Choices, UK (Five steps to mental wellbeing, Find mental health support)

Living with

There is evidence that good mental wellbeing is important for our physical health, and that it can help us achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

Many factors influence our wellbeing. Evidence shows that the actions we take and the way we think have the biggest impact. There are five steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing:

  1. Be active: find an activity you enjoy.
  2. Keep learning: for example a new skill.
  3. Be giving to others: acts of kindness can improve your mental health.
  4. Take notice: be 'mindful' of the present moment.
  5. Stay connected: make an effort to develop relationships with family and friends and colleagues.

The Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) service aims to increase recovery opportunities for people whose lives are severely affected by their experience of mental illness. There is some eligibility criteria, and more information can be found on their website: www.fahcsia.gov.au.

Sources: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Mental Health Services in Australia), Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (homepage), NHS Choices, UK (Five steps to mental wellbeing)

Facts & figures

  • Serious mental health problems are more common than you might think. Between 1 and 2 people in 100 has a severe mental health condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
  • Around 7.3 million or 45% of Australians aged 16 to 85 years will experience a common mental health-related condition such as depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder in their lifetime (according to the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing).
  • Mental health problems are equally common in men and women, but the types of problems differ. Women are more than twice as likely to be affected by depression, while men suffer more from substance abuse (80% of those dependent on alcohol are men). Men are also more prone to suicide.

Sources: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Mental Health Services in Australia), NHS Choices, UK (One in four affected)

Last reviewed: 
February, 2013