Mental health is a state of well-being in which you are able to cope with everyday stressors, maintain healthy relationships, have good self-esteem and make productive decisions. People with poor mental health are not necessarily suffering from a medical condition, but they may have difficulty functioning at work, home or in social activities.
A person’s mental health can fluctuate just like their physical health. It can go through periods of positive, bright bursts of energy and dark times of depression or anxiety. But if you’re experiencing drastic changes in your thoughts, feelings and behaviour, these can be signs that you need help. Use our symptom checker to see how you might be feeling and find out what steps you can take to improve your mental health.
While there is no single answer to the question “what causes mental illness?”, research suggests that multiple, linking factors are at play. These include genetics, environment and lifestyle (such as stressful jobs or homes), traumatic events, and basic brain circuits and structures.
There is also a growing body of evidence that shows that the quality of life in people with mental health conditions can be improved through non-drug treatments such as psychosocial support and psychoeducation, as well as a range of drug-free approaches. However, despite the significant burden of mental illness and its widespread impact on individuals, families and society, the level of investment in research and service delivery for mental health is low. It is critical to change this, and to ensure that the investments that are made are targeted appropriately.
In addition to reducing barriers to the development and implementation of effective interventions, it is important to promote mental health in ways that are culturally appropriate and relevant to the needs of different populations. This requires a holistic approach, including research and service delivery that draws on the best available evidence as well as community and experiential knowledge of mental health and wellbeing.
A key barrier is the perception of a stigma around mental illness. This is exacerbated by the lack of public understanding of mental health and disorders, which can lead to avoidance or mistrust of the treatment process. It is also important to dispel common myths about the nature of mental illness and to educate people that mental illnesses are just as real as any other medical disease.