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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

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:

  • 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.

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 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, Find mental health support)

Recommended links

Need more information?

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Signs of mental illness | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Information about different mental illnesses to help you recognise the signs in yourself or those you care about and get support.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Mind Australia - About mental ill-health

Read more on Mind Australia website

Caring for somebody with a mental illness | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Information for carers of people with mental illness including the rights and role of a carer; how to support themselves and information about additional supports available.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Pregnancy & Childbirth (Asia)

Personal stories and patient experiences of health and illness. First-hand insights and coping strategies for patients, carers, colleagues and family.

Read more on RealTime Health website

Types of Help - BluePages

Are you finding it difficult to reach out for help? Perhaps your depression is making you feel withdrawn and unable to cope with talking to a doctor. You might be feeling embarrassed, or that your problem is not important enough to 'bother' a doctor. Perhaps you imagine that depression is something you should be able to handle and fix yourself. You might even think that you are not suffering from a real illness. If so, you are not alone. Many people don't seek help for depression. However, depression is a serious illness and you deserve help.

Read more on e-hub Mental Health - Australian National University (ANU) website

Mind Australia - Support groups and workshops

Find out more about support groups and workshops for family members and other carers supporting someone with mental ill-health.

Read more on Mind Australia website

Consulting a professional: social workers, occupational therapists and mental health nurses

Find out about other mental health professionals including social workers, occupational therapists and mental health nurses.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

MindSpot Clinic | Indigenous Wellbeing Course

The Indigenous Wellbeing Course is designed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged 18 years and over to learn to manage mild, moderate and severe symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Read more on MindSpot Clinic website

Understanding your mental illness

Information for parents about understanding your own mental illness. About learning from others and supporting your family to talk about their understanding and experiences.

Read more on COPMI – Children of Parents with a Mental Illness website

What is mental illness? Mental Health Resources for Carers

Read more on Carers QLD website

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