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What is
mental illness ?
What is mental                            Mental illnesses cause a great deal of
                                          suffering to those experiencing them,
illness?                                  as well as their families and friends.
                                          Furthermore, these problems appear to
About one in five Australians will        be increasing. According to the World
experience a mental illness, and most     Health Organization, depression will
of us will experience a mental health     be one of the biggest health problems
problem at some time in our lives.        worldwide by the year 2020.
Mental illness is a general term that
refers to a group of illnesses, in the
                                          Types of mental illness
same way that heart disease refers        Mental illnesses are of different types
to a group of illnesses and disorders     and degrees of severity. Some of the
affecting the heart.                      major types are depression, anxiety,
A mental illness is a health problem      schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder,
that significantly affects how a person   personality disorders, and eating
feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts     disorders.
with other people. It is diagnosed        The most common mental illnesses
according to standardised criteria. The   are anxiety and depressive disorders.
term mental disorder is also used to      While everyone experiences strong
refer to these health problems.           feelings of tension, fear, or sadness at
A mental health problem also              times, a mental illness is present when
interferes with how a person thinks,      these feelings become so disturbing
feels, and behaves, but to a lesser       and overwhelming that people have
extent than a mental illness.             great difficulty coping with day-to-day
                                          activities, such as work, enjoying leisure
Mental health problems are more           time, and maintaining relationships.
common and include the mental
ill health that can be experienced        At their most extreme, people with
temporarily as a reaction to the          a depressive disorder may not be
stresses of life.                         able to get out of bed or care for
                                          themselves physically. People with
Mental health problems are less           certain types of anxiety disorder may
severe than mental illnesses, but may     not be able to leave the house, or may
develop into a mental illness if they     have compulsive rituals to help them
are not effectively dealt with.           alleviate their fears.
Less common are mental illnesses             medication, cognitive and behavioural
that may involve psychosis. These            psychological therapies, psycho-social
include schizophrenia and bipolar            support, psychiatric disability rehabilitation,
mood disorder. People experiencing an        avoidance of risk factors such as harmful
acute episode of psychosis lose touch        alcohol and other drug use, and learning
with reality and perceive their world        self-management skills.
differently from normal. Their ability
                                             It is rarely possible for someone with a
to make sense of thoughts, feelings,
                                             mental illness to make the symptoms go
and the world around them is seriously
                                             away just by strength of will. To suggest this
affected.
                                             is not helpful in any way.
A psychotic episode may involve
                                             People with a mental illness need the same
delusions, such as false beliefs of
                                             understanding and support given to people
persecution, guilt, or grandeur. It may
                                             with a physical illness. A mental illness is no
involve hallucinations, where the person
                                             different-it is not an illness for which anyone
sees, hears, smells, or tastes things that
                                             should be blamed.
are not there.
                                             People with mental illness may be at risk of
Psychotic episodes can be threatening
                                             harmful alcohol and other drug use. This
and confusing to other people. Such
                                             makes treatment more complex, so that
behaviour is difficult to understand for
                                             effectively managing alcohol and other drug
people who are not familiar with it.
                                             use is important.
Treatment of mental illness                  Risk of suicide is heightened for people with
                                             some mental illnesses, particularly soon
Most mental illnesses can be effectively     after diagnosis or release from hospital.
treated. Recognising the early signs
and symptoms of mental illness and
accessing effective treatment early is       Myths, misunderstandings
important. The earlier treatment starts,
the better the outcome.
                                             and facts about mental
Episodes of mental illness can come and      illness
go during different periods in people’s      Myths, misunderstandings, and negative
lives. Some people experience only one       stereotypes and attitudes surround mental
episode of illness and fully recover. For    illness. These result in stigma, discrimination,
others, it recurs throughout their lives.    and isolation of people with mental illness,
Effective treatments can include             as well as their families and carers.
Common questions about mental illness       history.
are:
                                            Many factors contribute to the onset
Are mental illnesses a form of              of a mental illness. These include stress,
intellectual disability or brain damage? bereavement, relationship breakdown,
                                            physical and sexual abuse, unemployment,
No. They are illnesses just like any other,
                                            social isolation, and major physical illness
such as heart disease, diabetes, and
                                            or disability. Our understanding of the
asthma. Yet the traditions of sympathy,
                                            causes of mental illness is growing.
support, and flowers given to people
with physical illnesses are often denied    Can anyone develop a mental illness?
to those with a mental illness.
                                            Yes. In fact, as many as one in five
Are mental illnesses incurable and          Australians may develop a mental illness
lifelong?                                   at some stage in their lives. Everyone is
                                            vulnerable to mental health problems.
No. When treated appropriately and
early, many people recover fully and        Many people feel more comfortable
have no further episodes of illness.        with the notion of having ‘a nervous
                                            breakdown’ rather than a mental illness.
For others, mental illness may recur
                                            However, it is important to talk openly
throughout their lives and require
                                            about mental illness, as this reduces the
ongoing treatment. This is the same as
                                            stigma and helps people to seek early
many physical illnesses, such as diabetes
                                            treatment.
and heart disease. Like these other
long-term health conditions, mental         Are people with mental illness usually
illness can be managed so that              dangerous?
individuals live life to the fullest.
                                            No. This false perception underlies some
Although some people become                 of the most damaging stereotypes.
disabled as a result of ongoing mental      People with a mental illness are seldom
illness, many who experience even very      dangerous. Even people with the most
major episodes of illness live full and     severe mental illness are rarely dangerous
productive lives.                           when receiving appropriate treatment and
                                            support.
Are people born with a mental illness?
                                            Should people with a mental illness be
No. A vulnerability to some mental
                                            isolated from the community?
illnesses, such as bipolar mood disorder,
can run in families. But other people       No. Most people with a mental illness
develop mental illness with no family       recover quickly and do not even need
hospital care. Others have short            • Think about mental illnesses like any
admissions to hospital for treatment.         other illness or health condition and
Improvements in treatment over recent         bring them into the open.
decades mean that most people live in
                                            • Talk about mental illness openly with
their communities, and there is no need
                                              everyone you meet - it is surprising how
for the confinement and isolation that
                                              many people are affected by mental
was commonly used in the past.
                                              illness, particularly the highly prevalent
A very small number of people with            disorders of depression and anxiety.
mental illness need hospital care,
                                            • Educate the community to overcome
sometimes against their will.
                                              negative stereotypes based on
Improvements in treatment are making
                                              misconceptions.
this less and less common, and fewer
than one in a 1000 people are treated       • Promote mental health and healthy
this way.                                     attitudes through childhood and adult life.
Is stigma one of the biggest problems       • Support the development of resilience:
for people with mental illness?               learn ways to deal with stress in
                                              relationships, situations, and events.
Yes. One of the biggest obstacles for
people recovering from mental illness       • Assist friends and family with a mental
is confronting the negative attitudes of      illness to obtain care and treatment as
other people. These often mean that           early as possible.
people with mental illness face isolation   • Ensure high quality support and treatment
and discrimination just for having an         services are provided to people with
illness.                                      mental illness to promote recovery.
Positive and hopeful attitudes of family, • Actively support the families and carers of
friends, service providers, employers, and   people who have mental illness, who also
other members of the community toward        experience the confusion, distress, and
people with mental illness are critical to   stigma that can accompany mental illness.
ensuring quality of life for people with
mental illness and supporting recovery.    • Address discrimination in every area of life,
                                             including employment, education, and the
What can be done                             provision of goods, services, and facilities.
                                            • Encourage research into mental illness to
about the stigma of                           assist understanding of how these illnesses
mental illness?                               affect people and can be prevented and/
                                              or effectively treated.
Where to go for help                         About this brochure
• Your general practitioner.           This is the first in a series of brochures
• Your community health centre.        on mental illness funded by the
                                       Australian Government under the
• Your community mental health centre. National Mental Health Strategy.
For information on services, check the Information about specific mental
Community Help and Welfare Services    illnesses can be found in the other
and 24-hour emergency numbers in your brochures, which include:
local telephone directory.             • What is an anxiety disorder?
For immediate counselling assistance,
                                             • What is bipolar mood disorder?
contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Lifeline can
also supply you with contacts, further       • What is a depressive disorder?
information and help.
                                             • What is an eating disorder?
Other useful sources of information
                                             • What is a personality disorder?
about mental illness are:
                                             • What is schizophrenia?
SANE Australia www.sane.org
                                             Free copies of all brochures are available
Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia
www.mifa.org.au                              from Mental Health and Workforce
                                             Division of the Australian Government
The public area of the Royal Australian      Department of Health and Ageing:
and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
www.ranzcp.org                           GPO Box 9848
                                         CANBERRA ACT 2601
Auseinet www.auseinet.com
                                         Tel 1800 066 247
Australian Government’s HealthInsite
www.healthinsite.gov.au                  Fax 1800 634 400
                                             www.health.gov.au/mentalhealth




      Insert local contact details here

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Whatis mentalillnessenglish

  • 2. What is mental Mental illnesses cause a great deal of suffering to those experiencing them, illness? as well as their families and friends. Furthermore, these problems appear to About one in five Australians will be increasing. According to the World experience a mental illness, and most Health Organization, depression will of us will experience a mental health be one of the biggest health problems problem at some time in our lives. worldwide by the year 2020. Mental illness is a general term that refers to a group of illnesses, in the Types of mental illness same way that heart disease refers Mental illnesses are of different types to a group of illnesses and disorders and degrees of severity. Some of the affecting the heart. major types are depression, anxiety, A mental illness is a health problem schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder, that significantly affects how a person personality disorders, and eating feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts disorders. with other people. It is diagnosed The most common mental illnesses according to standardised criteria. The are anxiety and depressive disorders. term mental disorder is also used to While everyone experiences strong refer to these health problems. feelings of tension, fear, or sadness at A mental health problem also times, a mental illness is present when interferes with how a person thinks, these feelings become so disturbing feels, and behaves, but to a lesser and overwhelming that people have extent than a mental illness. great difficulty coping with day-to-day activities, such as work, enjoying leisure Mental health problems are more time, and maintaining relationships. common and include the mental ill health that can be experienced At their most extreme, people with temporarily as a reaction to the a depressive disorder may not be stresses of life. able to get out of bed or care for themselves physically. People with Mental health problems are less certain types of anxiety disorder may severe than mental illnesses, but may not be able to leave the house, or may develop into a mental illness if they have compulsive rituals to help them are not effectively dealt with. alleviate their fears.
  • 3. Less common are mental illnesses medication, cognitive and behavioural that may involve psychosis. These psychological therapies, psycho-social include schizophrenia and bipolar support, psychiatric disability rehabilitation, mood disorder. People experiencing an avoidance of risk factors such as harmful acute episode of psychosis lose touch alcohol and other drug use, and learning with reality and perceive their world self-management skills. differently from normal. Their ability It is rarely possible for someone with a to make sense of thoughts, feelings, mental illness to make the symptoms go and the world around them is seriously away just by strength of will. To suggest this affected. is not helpful in any way. A psychotic episode may involve People with a mental illness need the same delusions, such as false beliefs of understanding and support given to people persecution, guilt, or grandeur. It may with a physical illness. A mental illness is no involve hallucinations, where the person different-it is not an illness for which anyone sees, hears, smells, or tastes things that should be blamed. are not there. People with mental illness may be at risk of Psychotic episodes can be threatening harmful alcohol and other drug use. This and confusing to other people. Such makes treatment more complex, so that behaviour is difficult to understand for effectively managing alcohol and other drug people who are not familiar with it. use is important. Treatment of mental illness Risk of suicide is heightened for people with some mental illnesses, particularly soon Most mental illnesses can be effectively after diagnosis or release from hospital. treated. Recognising the early signs and symptoms of mental illness and accessing effective treatment early is Myths, misunderstandings important. The earlier treatment starts, the better the outcome. and facts about mental Episodes of mental illness can come and illness go during different periods in people’s Myths, misunderstandings, and negative lives. Some people experience only one stereotypes and attitudes surround mental episode of illness and fully recover. For illness. These result in stigma, discrimination, others, it recurs throughout their lives. and isolation of people with mental illness, Effective treatments can include as well as their families and carers.
  • 4. Common questions about mental illness history. are: Many factors contribute to the onset Are mental illnesses a form of of a mental illness. These include stress, intellectual disability or brain damage? bereavement, relationship breakdown, physical and sexual abuse, unemployment, No. They are illnesses just like any other, social isolation, and major physical illness such as heart disease, diabetes, and or disability. Our understanding of the asthma. Yet the traditions of sympathy, causes of mental illness is growing. support, and flowers given to people with physical illnesses are often denied Can anyone develop a mental illness? to those with a mental illness. Yes. In fact, as many as one in five Are mental illnesses incurable and Australians may develop a mental illness lifelong? at some stage in their lives. Everyone is vulnerable to mental health problems. No. When treated appropriately and early, many people recover fully and Many people feel more comfortable have no further episodes of illness. with the notion of having ‘a nervous breakdown’ rather than a mental illness. For others, mental illness may recur However, it is important to talk openly throughout their lives and require about mental illness, as this reduces the ongoing treatment. This is the same as stigma and helps people to seek early many physical illnesses, such as diabetes treatment. and heart disease. Like these other long-term health conditions, mental Are people with mental illness usually illness can be managed so that dangerous? individuals live life to the fullest. No. This false perception underlies some Although some people become of the most damaging stereotypes. disabled as a result of ongoing mental People with a mental illness are seldom illness, many who experience even very dangerous. Even people with the most major episodes of illness live full and severe mental illness are rarely dangerous productive lives. when receiving appropriate treatment and support. Are people born with a mental illness? Should people with a mental illness be No. A vulnerability to some mental isolated from the community? illnesses, such as bipolar mood disorder, can run in families. But other people No. Most people with a mental illness develop mental illness with no family recover quickly and do not even need
  • 5. hospital care. Others have short • Think about mental illnesses like any admissions to hospital for treatment. other illness or health condition and Improvements in treatment over recent bring them into the open. decades mean that most people live in • Talk about mental illness openly with their communities, and there is no need everyone you meet - it is surprising how for the confinement and isolation that many people are affected by mental was commonly used in the past. illness, particularly the highly prevalent A very small number of people with disorders of depression and anxiety. mental illness need hospital care, • Educate the community to overcome sometimes against their will. negative stereotypes based on Improvements in treatment are making misconceptions. this less and less common, and fewer than one in a 1000 people are treated • Promote mental health and healthy this way. attitudes through childhood and adult life. Is stigma one of the biggest problems • Support the development of resilience: for people with mental illness? learn ways to deal with stress in relationships, situations, and events. Yes. One of the biggest obstacles for people recovering from mental illness • Assist friends and family with a mental is confronting the negative attitudes of illness to obtain care and treatment as other people. These often mean that early as possible. people with mental illness face isolation • Ensure high quality support and treatment and discrimination just for having an services are provided to people with illness. mental illness to promote recovery. Positive and hopeful attitudes of family, • Actively support the families and carers of friends, service providers, employers, and people who have mental illness, who also other members of the community toward experience the confusion, distress, and people with mental illness are critical to stigma that can accompany mental illness. ensuring quality of life for people with mental illness and supporting recovery. • Address discrimination in every area of life, including employment, education, and the What can be done provision of goods, services, and facilities. • Encourage research into mental illness to about the stigma of assist understanding of how these illnesses mental illness? affect people and can be prevented and/ or effectively treated.
  • 6. Where to go for help About this brochure • Your general practitioner. This is the first in a series of brochures • Your community health centre. on mental illness funded by the Australian Government under the • Your community mental health centre. National Mental Health Strategy. For information on services, check the Information about specific mental Community Help and Welfare Services illnesses can be found in the other and 24-hour emergency numbers in your brochures, which include: local telephone directory. • What is an anxiety disorder? For immediate counselling assistance, • What is bipolar mood disorder? contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Lifeline can also supply you with contacts, further • What is a depressive disorder? information and help. • What is an eating disorder? Other useful sources of information • What is a personality disorder? about mental illness are: • What is schizophrenia? SANE Australia www.sane.org Free copies of all brochures are available Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia www.mifa.org.au from Mental Health and Workforce Division of the Australian Government The public area of the Royal Australian Department of Health and Ageing: and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists www.ranzcp.org GPO Box 9848 CANBERRA ACT 2601 Auseinet www.auseinet.com Tel 1800 066 247 Australian Government’s HealthInsite www.healthinsite.gov.au Fax 1800 634 400 www.health.gov.au/mentalhealth Insert local contact details here