Mental Health

Mental Health

Approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness each year. Mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia, accounting for an estimated 27% of the total years lost due to disability (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007)

Mental illness is a medical condition that impairs one’s ability to cope and function with ordinary life. Just as diabetes is a medical condition of the pancreas, mental illness disrupts a person’s thoughts, personality, behaviour and emotions.

Mental conditions can affect anyone of any age, sex, race and income status. However with an individualised treatment plan and support system, mental illnesses are treatable.

So what are mental health conditions? More common and well known ones include depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and eating disorders. Less common ones include schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorders and bipolar disorder.

There is still a degree of stigma linked to mental illness. There has been a lot of work done over the years to publicise and increase awareness of mental health conditions. This has resulted in many help groups, government funded organisations, initiatives and services readily available for the public.

Signs and Symptoms

Depending on the type of mental condition, symptoms can range from behavioural, emotional, and/ or physical. Behavioural symptoms can manifest as the inability to concentrate, relying on alcohol and sedatives and withdrawing from close family and friends. Emotional symptoms may include feeling overwhelmed, guilty, and frustrated. Some physical warning signs include sleep problems, weight loss or gain or feeling run down.


There is no simple explanation to what causes a mental health condition. Factors that can predispose someone to a certain mental condition include:

  • Imbalance of chemicals in the brain
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Genetics or family history
  • Stress levels
  • Personality
  • Drug and alcohol
  • Presence of other chronic health conditions
  • Medications


Successful treatment involves more than one therapy. There are a number of ways to treat mental illnesses. Non drug treatments include counselling, exercise, relaxation and behavioural therapy. Some people may require prescription medications. Others look towards complementary and alternative medicines. Make sure to discuss with your doctor or pharmacist first before considering these. Often a combination of these treatments can provide a good outcome and help control and manage a mental illness.

Getting Help

Talking and counselling is a good first step in managing a mental health condition. As well as family, friends, doctors, psychologists, and counsellors, your local Community Pharmacy is a good point of call. The pharmacist is there to provide advice, counselling and professional services about mental illnesses in addition to dispensing prescription medicines.

You can get more detailed information about specific mental illnesses from pharmacies that keep Self Care health information fact cards..

There are also many organisations that provide help and support:
Beyondblue 1300 884 636
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline (5 o 25 years) 1800 551 800

If you think anyone may be dealing with a mental illness you can help by providing them support and empathy. Assist them in seeking professional help. Be positive and encourage them in their treatment plan and be aware of adverse changes or any signs of harm or suicidal intent.

Self care

  • Learn about your mental illness and how to manage it. Learn about the triggers and ways to reduce it. Identify warning signs and take steps to reduce the frequency or impact
  • Look after your health. Keep active and exercise regularly. This can help with general health, mood, sleep and wellbeing
  • Implement relaxation techniques to relax your body and mind. Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Eat regular healthy meals with plenty of fruit, vegetables and grain foods. Limit fast foods, sugar and salt, smoking, caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid illicit drugs

But most importantly, ask for help. Let family and friends know how you are feeling. And look after yourself and do things that you enjoy. Remember it is an illness not a sign of weakness.

Mental Health Week will run from Sunday 5th to Saturday 11th October, with 10th October being World Mental Health Day.

  • ‘Anxiety” Self care card, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, February 2011
  • ‘Don't stress it’, The Health Column 1407, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, May 2014
  • How to ask R U OK?, The Health Column 1424, September 2014
  • National Alliance on Medical Illness,, accessed 15/9/14
  • Mental Health Foundation of Victoria,, accessed 115/9/14
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