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Mental health and mental illness

When we think about mental health, we often think of words and images associated with mental ’ill’ health. Mentally Healthy WA aims to re-frame this perception to something more positive—we can all do things to strengthen and promote our own mental well-being and that of others.

Mental health is a state of well-being. It’s not just the absence of illness, but also the ability to maintain relationships, cope with stress, contribute to the community and enjoy life.

Unfortunately not everybody experiences good mental health all of the time. In Australia, one in five people will experience some form of mental illness each year. Three out of ten will be seriously affected.

Mental health disorders are increasing around the world. In Australia, half of Australian adults will experience a mental health problem during their lives, and one in five will experience a mental health problem in any given year (ABS 2007). The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2030 unipolar depressive disorder will be the number one cause of disease burden in high-income countries. Further, unipolar depressive disorder will have a greater contribution to the global disease burden than stroke, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, vision and hearing loss by 2030 (Mathers & Loncar 2006). In Australia mental illness accounts for 14% of the disease burden but receives only 8% of the health budget (Roberts 2011).

It is estimated that the annual cost of mental illness in Australia is approximately $20 billion, which includes the costs from loss of productivity and participation in the workforce [Council of Australian Governments (2006), National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006−2011, p. 1.].

The prevalence of mental and neurological disorders, and the associated costs, underscores the increasing need for programs promoting positive mental health, mental illness prevention and early detection.

It is clear that interventions are needed to prevent the onset of mental health problems before the situation worsens.

The good news is there are things we all can and should do to promote our mental wellbeing and create a stronger more resilient community.

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