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Recognising Mental Illness and Getting Support

Learn more about the disability support services available to those requiring assistance with mental illness

This page provides information on mental illness, and where to get appropriate disability services and assistance in Australia.

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About mental illness

Mental illness refers to any condition that disrupts a person’s mental health.

‘Mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ are often used interchangeably, but it is important to note that mental health is not a bad thing. It is a term that refers to your overall mental and emotional wellbeing.

Mental illnesses are a range of conditions that negatively affect your mental health, thoughts, behaviours, and feelings. Your mind can suffer illness just like your body can get sick or injured. Mental illness also needs treatment like a physical illness does, and in some cases may require the use of home support services to ensure optimum wellbeing.

Issues with mental health are common and experienced by most people at some stage. Nearly half of all Australians will experience a mental health disorder in their life.

Severe mental illness can be a significant disability that prevents a person from going about daily life. That does not mean people with mental illness are weak, or need to ‘toughen up’. Mental illness is common, and can affect anyone, and can be managed with the right external or home support services.

Mental illness can be caused by socioeconomic circumstances, access to basic needs, education and employment, living conditions, traumatic experiences or stressful life circumstances, or be genetically linked.

Everyone’s experience of mental illness is different. You might not think of yourself as having a mental illness, but still feel like something isn’t right.

Many people are not comfortable talking about their mental health because of negative attitudes surrounding mental illness or its causes (such as struggling with gender or sexual identity).

You might be in circumstances that affect how you or your loved ones think and feel about mental health. Doctors and mental health workers in Australia are trained to be sensitive to your needs and circumstances and can be accessed through NDIS service providers.

Signs and diagnosis

Different mental illnesses have different signs and symptoms. You should seek help if you experience any of the following

  • persistent negative or obsessive thoughts, feeling bad about the future, like something bad is going to happen or that there is no hope, re-living bad moments from the past or not being able to think about them at all
  • feeling like you have no control over your emotions or ability to predict them — whether it is sadness, anger, happiness or anything else
  • shortness of breath, blackouts, disturbed sleep, feeling constantly wound-up or on high alert
  • losing interest in your life and hobbies, lack of energy
  • seeing or hearing things that other people can’t
  • feeling disconnected from your body or your surroundings, like time is moving slowly or standing still, feeling like the world is not real, not being able to engage with what’s going on around you
  • significant memory, concentration or other issues that can’t be explained by existing health problems.

Your doctor can support you if you or someone you know are having mental health issues. The doctor might refer you to a specialist, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, paediatrician, or other mental health professional.

Assessment and diagnosis of mental illness is different for everyone. Diagnosis can involve assessments and questions about what you have been thinking and feeling, your background and childhood, your family history of mental illness or other health issues, and other tests.

The treatment and supports your doctor provides will be unique to you, and NDIS support providers can help ensure you are receiving the most appropriate assistance for your needs.

Services and support

There are many support services available for people experiencing mental illness in Australia.

If you are hurt or experiencing an emergency, call 000 immediately.

If you need to talk to someone right now, Beyond Blue provide over-the-phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and an online chat support from 12pm-1am every day.

Mental health services in Australia are provided through community and non-government organisations (NGOs), and the health system. See who’s who in mental health services in Australia.

Non-government and community organisations provide information and support to people who are experiencing mental health issues. They are often the first stop for people who feel like they might need to talk to someone about their mental health.

Many of these services are aimed at supporting people in specific circumstances. See the ‘where to get information and help’ tab below to find a support organisation that suits you.

The government supports people with mental health issues mainly through the health system — such as urgent care in hospitals and mental health clinics, ongoing treatment and referrals by general practitioners, and treatment and support through registered mental health professionals.

There is government funding available for you to get mental health support.

If you have not been diagnosed with a mental illness or are thinking about talking to someone for the first time, talk to your doctor about getting a mental health treatment plan. There is no shame in needing to talk to someone about your health.

If you are under 65 years old and your mental illness is a permanent and significant disability, you can apply for access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS funds disability-related supports and services. You will need to provide evidence to support your access application — it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about collecting this evidence.  Find out who to contact about the NDIS where you live.

Mental illness can be challenging for families and carers to manage, too. It is important carers get the help they need. Carer supports are available through government support programs, the NDIS for carers of NDIS participants, and the Carer Gateway.

How Claro can support you

At Claro, we provide disability and allied health services tailored to your needs. Our disability services range from everyday supports like help with shopping and transport, to more complex services such as overnight care and supported independent living.

Contact us now to talk about how we can support you to have a bright future.

Where to get information and help?

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