Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Two women talking about mental health disorders.

Two women talking about mental health disorders.
beginning of content

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)

Last reviewed: September 2015

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 2396 results

Mind Australia - About mental ill-health

Read more on Mind Australia 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

Substance Use Disorder - Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health is the world’s leading research and knowledge translation organisation focusing on mental ill-health in young people.

Read more on Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health 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

Mental Illness

It is important that people who have a mental illness and who find that they have a life limiting illness are able to access the help they need. There are many services that can help if someone has had a mental illness history, or if they are caring for someone with a mental illness. Mental Health and Palliative Care Services can work together to best meet the needs of people requiring palliative care and their families

Read more on CareSearch website

What is mental illness?

A mental illness is a health problem that affects how a person behaves, feels, thinks and interacts with other people.

Read more on Australian College of Mental Health Nurses website

Mental illness & the workplace

Read more on SANE Australia website

Treatments for mental illness

Is mental illness treatable? Yes, mental illness can be treated. This means that many people who have a mental illness, and are treated, recover well...

Read more on SANE Australia website

About mental health - NT.GOV.AU

Mental health issues and illness, and tips for staying mentally healthy.

Read more on NT Health website

Mental health in the workplace

Mental illness is the leading cause of long-term workplace absence in most developed countries. Mental illness is also associated with high levels of...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback