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

See also Getting help

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 in any given year. 

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:

  • long-term and acute stress
  • 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.

24 Hour Emergency Services

Health Direct Australia

1800 022 222

Mental Health Emergency Response Line (MHERL)

1300 555 788 Metro

1800 676 822 Peel

Rural Link

1800 552 002


Mental Health Week