There are many misconceptions about what mental health is. Mislabelling somebody with a mental health problem can be damaging, yet not knowing when someone you know has a mental health issue can be equally as devastating.           

The stigma and the fear associated with mental health troubles makes early diagnosis an accompanying dilemma. 65% of Australians do not seek treatment and this can be a big burden on the society if these individuals with mental health problems are not addressed.

Mental health problems can have a grave impact on the way you live your life. They can have an effect on your thoughts, actions or emotions. They can start interfering with your daily activities whether at school, work or involving relationships.

Mental illness is very common in Australia. One in five Australians aged 16-85 years experience a mental illness every year. Almost 45% of Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

What is good mental health?

A person who has good social and emotional wellbeing, the ability to cope with problematic situations and challenges, and can study and work to his or her full potential is considered to have good mental health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as:

“Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Are you suffering from a mental health problem?

Feeling low, sad or dejected is a part of life and almost everybody goes through some rough patches in their lifetime. But when these normal human emotions start persisting for a longer period of time or they start interfering with your daily life activities, then you may have crossed the bridge to a mental health problem.

While most mental health problems are not severe or long lasting, it becomes important that you seek help from loved ones or a professional.

Signs of a mental health problem

As previous emphasised, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose a low mood from a serious mental health problem, so looking for a few common signs may give you an idea. Here are a few signs you may want to look for:

  • Inability to enjoy pleasurable activities or previously enjoyable activities
  • Sleep problems: sleeping less or more than usual
  • Eating problems: eating less or more than usual
  • Getting easily annoyed and irritated by family or friends
  • Not performing well at school or work
  • Indulging in risky activities that a person would usually avoid like alcohol and drugs
  • Feeling restless or tense all the time
  • Crying more than usual without any apparent reason
  • Feeling ‘down’
  • Having trouble remembering things or concentrating on a subject
  • Having negative thoughts
  • Feeling more stressed or worried than usual

 What is a mental illness?

As a continuum from a broader definition of mental illness by National Community Advisory Group on Mental Health (1994) a narrower clinical definition is:

“Mental illness can be defined as a clinically recognisable set of symptoms (relating to mood, thought, or cognition) or behaviour that is associated with distress and interference with functions (that is, impairments leading to activity limitations or participation restrictions)”.

Although mental health disorders can occur at any age, anxiety and depression are more common with young people. The onset of mental illness is typically around mid to late adolescence and Australian youth aged between 18-25 years have the highest prevalence. On in every four Australian youth suffers from a mental illness. 14% of them suffer from anxiety, 6% from depression and 5% from substance abuse disorders.

A mental illness can affect your thoughts, emotions, actions and memory. A mental illness is usually more prolonged than a mental health problem and thus causes more distress and disruption.

A few examples of mental illnesses are:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Addictions, alcohol and drug abuse
  • Psychosis
  • Self harm

Causes of mental illness

It may not be possible to find a definitive cause for a mental illness. The situation and the setting differ with different individuals. Most of the time there is no single cause but instead there are multiple overlapping causes. A few of them are as follows:

  • Biological e.g. genetic
  • Earlier life experiences e.g. neglect, abuse or loss of a loved one
  • Individual factors e.g. self esteem, coping skills, thinking patterns
  • Current circumstances e.g. stress at work/school, financial issues, personal relationship problems or family problems.

Seeking help

If you suspect that you or your loved ones are suffering from a mental health problem then seeking help at the earliest possible opportunity holds the best chance of returning back to normality soon.

There are many ways to seek help if you or your loved ones are suffering from a mental illness. Many GPs, loved ones, support groups, community mental health services, welfare teams, professional therapists or counsellors may be able to pull you through this rough phase.

Seeking help early would help you benefit from the treatment as soon as possible before the illness becomes too disabling and crippling for your daily activities. This may also help to keep your work, school or personal relationships under your control.

A professional will help you develop the skills that you need to solve the mental health problem as take care of you as a whole- treat your symptoms and help you put your life back on track

Search for a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist on Australia Counselling today.