Health conditions

What is mental health?

Good mental health is a sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem. It enables us to fully enjoy and appreciate other people, day-to-day life and our environment.

When we are mentally healthy we can: 

  • form positive relationships 
  • use our abilities to reach our potential
  • deal with life’s challenges.

How can we improve our mental health?

A few tips for positive mental health are:

  • talk about or express your feelings
  • exercise regularly
  • eat healthy meals
  • get enough sleep
  • spend time with friends and loved ones
  • develop new skills
  • relax and enjoy your hobbies
  • set realistic goals
  • talk to your GP or a health professional.

What is mental illness?

A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person thinks, behaves and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria.

One in 5 Australians will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives.

A mental health problem also affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, but to a lesser extent than a mental illness.

Mental illnesses are of different types and degrees of severity. 

Some of the major types are:

  • anxiety
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar mood disorder
  • personality disorders
  • eating disorders
  • depression.

These illnesses may also be referred to as a mental disorder, mental impairment or psychiatric disability.

What causes mental illness?

Mental illness results from complex interactions between the mind, body and environment. 

Factors which can contribute to mental illness are:

  • biological factors such as genetics, chemistry and hormones
  • use of alcohol, drugs and other substances cognitive patterns such as constant negative thoughts and low self-esteem
  • social factors such as isolation, financial problems, family breakdown or violence.

These factors can be minimised by a strong and supportive community environment.

More information

Visit the Mental Health Commission (external site) for more information on mental health issues and mental illness.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor.
  • Visit a GP after hours.
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
  • Mental Health Emergency Response Line (MHERL)
    Metro callers 1300 55 788
    Peel 1800 676 822
  • RuralLink
    Rural and remote areas 1800 552 002

Remember

  • Good mental health is a sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.
  • A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person thinks, behaves and interacts with other people.


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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