WA Super News

Mental illness: Fact v Fiction


In this article, we dispel a number of prevalent myths around mental illness. We also give you a few tools you can use to explore and improve your mental wellbeing as well as that of those you love.



Mental illness only affects a few people

One in five Australians will experience a mental illness

Mental illness is caused by weakness

Mental illness is caused by a range of genetic, biological, social and environmental factors

People with a mental illness can “pull themselves out of it”

Mental illness is not caused by weakness and it is not ‘cured’ by personal strength either

People with a mental illness never get better

With appropriate treatment, many people can – and do – recover from mental illness

Mental illness permanently reduces a person’s capacity to function at work

Productivity may be affected during periods of mental illness, like any illness. But recovery generally means the person will return to their full capacity

Mental illness affects everyone

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Australia, it is the leading cause of non-fatal disability.

WHO estimates that 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their life, and 1 in 4 will experience anxiety.

1 in 6 people will experience depression edm image

1 in 6 people will experience depression at some stage in their life¹

Living with a mental illness can significantly impact our quality of life and impacts the people around us, too – our parents, partner, children, friends, co-workers or carers.

It’s important that everybody knows what to look out for and how to help – especially when it comes to depression and anxiety, two very common forms of mental illness.

Waynes exeprience edm image2Wayne’s experience

"Being from a macho background, I was worried I’d be perceived as weak and peoples’ attitudes towards me would change. I was afraid my sons would lose respect for their father.

In reality the majority of my friends were understanding and a surprising number told me that they may be suffering as well. My sons rallied around me and some of their friends shared personal experiences with me too. The boys all began talking about it and supporting each other, which I hadn’t expected."

What is depression?

We all have times when we feel low, have a drop in our self-worth and feel somewhat depressed. In most cases, we ‘bounce back’.

People with clinical depression, however, experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time and sometimes,  for no apparent reason. And they can’t just snap out of it: the strategies we usually use to lift our mood simply don’t work.

Common signs of depression include:

Reduced capacity to experience pleasure: not enjoying what’s happening now nor looking forward to anything

Reduced motivation: things seem meaningless and not worth the effort

Lowered self-esteem or self-worth

Changes in appetite or weight

Changed sleep patterns, insomnia or broken sleep

Fluctuating emotions throughout the day (such as feeling worse in the morning and

better as the day progresses)

Reduced ability to control emotions like pessimism, anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety

Poor concentration and memory

If these signs persist for most days over a two-week period and interfere with your ability to manage at home and at work, you might benefit from seeing a mental health professional for an assessment.

What is anxiety?

Just as there are times when you might feel down but are not clinically depressed, there are times when you will feel anxious but do not have an anxiety disorder.

It’s normal to feel anxious in high pressure situations. To some degree, this sort of anxiety can help us focus and stay alert.

Anxiety becomes a problem when you start to feel this way most of the time about minor things, and the worry interferes with your day-to-day life.

Anxiety disorders are a mix of:

  • Psychological symptoms: frequent or excessive worry, poor concentration, or specific fears or phobias such as a fear of dying or losing control,
  • Physical symptoms: fatigue, irritability, sleeping difficulties, general restlessness, muscle tension, upset stomach, sweating or difficulty breathing,
  • Behavioural changes: procrastination, avoidance, difficulty making decisions or social withdrawal.

To be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a combination of these symptoms is typically present most days for over six months, and interferes with your ability to function at work or home.

It’s common to experience a low mood as well as excessive worry and the two conditions – clinical depression and anxiety disorder – can occur at the same time.

Support is available

Whether you are concerned about your own mental wellbeing, that of a friend or family member, or you’re simply interested in learning more, the Black Dog Institute has a wealth of resources available online, including:

  • Self-tests to see if you should consider medical support,
  • Wellbeing plan to guide conversationas about your own mental health,
  • A guide to looking after someone in your family.

The full suite of resources is available here https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/clinical-resources           


Article source: TAL     

Return to top