A mental illness or disorder is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. A mental health problem also interferes with how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, but to a lesser extent than a mental illness. Mental health problems are more common and include the mental ill health that can be experienced temporarily as a reaction to the stresses of life.

Each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness. The prevalence of mental illness decreases with age, with prevalence greatest among 18-24 year olds. Women are more likely than men to use services for mental health problems.

Many violent people have no history of mental disorder and most people with mental illness (90%) have no history of violence.

Common Mental Illnesses


People with a mental illness need the same understanding and support given to people with a physical illness. A mental illness is no different-it is not an illness for which anyone should be blamed.

People with mental illness may be at risk of harmful alcohol and other drug use. This makes treatment more complex, so that effectively managing alcohol and other drug use is important. Risk of suicide is heightened for people with some mental illnesses, particularly soon after diagnosis or release from hospital.

Effective treatments can include:

  • Medication
  • Cognitive and behavioural psychological therapies
  • Psycho-social support
  • Psychiatric disability rehabilitation
  • Avoidance of risk factors such as harmful alcohol and other drug use
  • Learning self-management skills

Visit our Support & Resources site for services available to the community of Western Australia.

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