The Common Mental Health Issues in Australia and the Importance of Dealing with Them

Mental Health Awareness Week -October 2021

Introduction to Mental Health Problem in Australia.

Approximately one in five people are affected by mental health issues. In Australia, mental health disorders cost around $10.6 billion between 2018-19 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare), above the cost of treating cancer.

The predominance of mental illness in Australia is high, with one in five people having some form of mental health disorder over their lifetime. This predominance means that everyone knows at least one person who has suffered from mental health issues at some time in life, and often more than just one person.

Why is Mental Health Awareness Week important?

Mental health is a topic that is difficult to discuss. It is difficult for people to talk about because it can be uncomfortable. It is difficult because of so many misconceptions about the nature of the problem. Mental health in Australia has been in the spotlight recently, and it’s about time. We’re in a position to make a change and not just hope that someone else will do something. A study from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that three out of four Australians aged 16 years or older had a mental illness, which is why we need to start taking this issue more seriously.

The 4 Kinds of Mental Illnesses in Australia

The ABS reported four major mental illnesses in Australia: anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, substance use disorders, and psychotic disorders. They also found that 1 million Australians had an anxiety disorder while 726 thousand had depression. Between 2019 – 2020 alone, “4.4 million patients (17.2% of the Australian population) filled a prescription for a mental health-related medication in 2019–20, with an average of 9.2 prescriptions per patient.

1. Depression

Depression is a common mental health issue. One in sixteen people will experience/current experience depression at some point in their life, and it is the leading cause of disability and lost productivity in Australia. While there is no one reason for depression, research has shown that how we think and feel about ourselves affects how we eat and our overall attitude towards life.

Depression is a mood disorder in which a person experiences deep, unshakable sadness and loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities. Depression can be an invisible illness, yet it can be quite debilitating for people to live with. Common depression symptoms include sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt, along with irritability, lack of energy, loss of interest in hobbies and social activities, poor concentration and memory, and weight gain.

“It’s hard to put into words, but there is this feeling that you are just not yourself. You know that you are supposed to be happy, or at least content, but no matter what you do, the feeling of emptiness and sadness is always there.”

There are many symptoms that we need to be aware of when someone is suffering from depression. Some people exhibit noticeable behavioral changes, while others may not show any symptoms at all. In addition, some people have only one episode of depression, while others have recurrent episodes.

Some may find it challenging to communicate what they feel like during their depressive episodes. But when you speak to someone who has experienced depression in the past, they will tell you that it feels like your body is numb, like your entire body has given up on life.

To know if someone is depressed, we must first know what depression is and how it manifests in their behavior and moods.

2. Anxiety Disorder

In Australia, Anxiety disorder is one of the top mental health illnesses. It is estimated that anxiety disorder affects around 14.4% of the population, more than 2 million Australians.

Different symptoms distinguish anxiety disorders. These symptoms could be feelings of worry or fears that are out of proportion to what would be expected based on the situation or excessive concern about potential future events to the point of feeling debilitating anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are caused when the brain responds incorrectly to danger, stress, or other triggers in our environment. The brain’s fight-or-flight response kicks in when there’s no real danger, and it releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can make us feel jumpy or hyper-alert (high levels cause panic attacks).

As a result, people with anxiety disorders often have difficulty sleeping because their minds are racing at night. They may also avoid certain situations because these trigger their anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are classified by their frequency, what they cause, how long they last, and if generalized or specific. The three types of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and panic disorder with agoraphobia. GAD is a chronic condition that lasts six months or more for at least half the days, making it difficult to function optimally. SAD is a chronic condition that lasts six months or more for at least half the day and causes people to avoid social situations because of fear of being embarrassed or judged. Finally, panic disorder with agoraphobia. Patients with this disorder have recurrent panic attacks and are often afraid of some situations or places. These patients have an intense fear about being in places where escape may be intricate, or they might lose control.

3. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD 

PTSD – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – is a mental health disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or after experiencing intense anxiety. People who have been through traumatic events, such as military combat, sexual assault, or natural disasters, are more likely to develop PTSD. However, not everyone with a history of trauma can develop PTSD. The most common symptoms include flashbacks and nightmares about the trauma, difficulty sleeping, or feeling detached from their surrounding environment.

There is currently no lab test for PTSD, so PTSD diagnoses are by the patients’ reports of experiencing four or more symptoms in a list of possible symptoms.

Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder may include:

– Feeling very upset when something reminds you of the traumatic event

– Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, people who are reminders of the trauma

– Having more than one flashback per day

– Feeling on edge or jumpy all the time

– Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because you keep thinking about the trauma

Post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis is when someone has been through at least one traumatic event with a minimum of four of these symptoms for at least one month.

4. Substance use disorders and Psychotic disorders

Drugs and alcohol are well-known for causing addiction to develop, but other substances can also lead to substance use disorder. These include tobacco, caffeine, solvents, inhalants, and anabolic steroids. Substance abuse can cause mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

In Australia, 1 in 20 people will be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder at some point in their lives. The symptoms of the psychotic disorder are not always easy to diagnose because they vary from person to person, and there is no clear-cut answer.

The symptoms of psychotic disorder usually happen during the evening or at night. Symptoms can range from hearing voices, delusions, hallucinations, or restlessness. Psychotic disorder symptoms are so varied, making it difficult to know if someone has a psychotic disorder.

Get the Right Diagnosis for Your Symptoms and Seek Treatment

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health problems in the world. A variety of treatments are there for depression and anxiety, including therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and self-help. The most common symptoms have been discussed in this article. It’s important to remember that there’s no way to diagnose or treat mental illness without chatting to a psychiatrist or psychologist about your diagnosis. They’ll be able to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms, suggest possible treatments for your mental illness, and point out any medications that may be beneficial for you.

Conclusion: How to Live Well with Your Mental Illness

Only you can conclude how well you can live with a mental illness. You have to figure out options that work for you and what doesn’t. However, there are a few things that most people with mental illness agree on.

Talking about your mental health is important. It’s a challenge, but it can make all the difference in how good your life is overall.

If you feel like you need help, it’s best to ask for it sooner than later.

You can try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). And they’re different for everyone – so don’t be afraid to try more than one if the first isn’t working.

You know your situation better than anyone- so consider your options based on yourself and your circumstances. Seek help from a professional.

Helpful contacts to familiarise yourself with are:

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636.


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