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Two women talking about mental health disorders.

Two women talking about mental health disorders.
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Mental health disorders

3-minute read

Comforting friends

9 symptoms of mental illness

When there has been a significant change to someone's behaviour, or they are having a hard time managing their feelings, they may be among the one in five Australians dealing with a mental health issue.

Learn how to recognise the 9 signs of mental illness. If you're concerned about a friend or loved one, ask them how you can help. If you're worried a person you know is at immediate risk of suicide or self-harm, dial triple zero (000).

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.

Just diagnosed with a mental health disorder

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:

  • hospital-based outpatient services and community mental health care services
  • consultations with your GP and other specialists
  • support from psychologists, social workers or occupational therapists
  • online services
  • hospitalisation and other residential care

If you have or are caring for someone who has mental illness, there are several Australian government programs and services to support you. Visit the Department of Social Services for more information.

Many 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.

Living with a mental health disorder

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 the Department of Social Services website.

Last reviewed: January 2018

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