Page: Mental Illness

Mental Illness and Its Causes

Mental illness is most commonly used to describe a medically diagnosed disorder or syndrome that significantly interferes with a person’s thinking, emotions and interactions with others; and causes major distress and disability.

Mental illness is more prevalent than many people realise.

Around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness or mental health concern at some point in their life.(Australian Human Rights Commission, 2010)

Its Causes
Mental illness and problems result from complex interactions between the mind, body and environment.  Factors which can contribute to mental illness are:

  • long-term or chronic stress, such as persistent work stress
  • acute stress from traumatic experiences or physical difficulties such as a heart attack.
  • experiences of trauma such as physical and sexual abuse and experiences of war and torture
  • biological factors such as genetics, chemistry and hormones
  • misuse of alcohol, drugs and other substances
  • thought patterns such as constant negative thoughts and low self esteem
  • social factors such as isolation, financial problems, family breakdown or violence

(Source: Western Australia Mental Health Commission)

There are 3 important things to know about mental illness:

  1. Mental illness can be prevented. Find ways to look after your mental health and wellbeing – See the quick links on the top right hand side of this page.
  2. Mental illness can be managed. Like physical illness, people can recover from mental illness or find ways to manage the symptoms of their illness. Find out more about Mental Health Recovery
  3. It is important to ‘Get Help Early’. Pay attention to the early warning signs, and prevent mental health problems from getting worse. Learn more about the early warning signs.