What is mental health? - Public Service Association

What is mental health?

Mental health refers to your state of mind. Good mental health allows you to feel confident in dealing with life’s challenges. Poor mental health can make it difficult to cope with day-to-day life.

Why is good mental health important?

Looking after your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health. Good mental health helps you:

  • appreciate and enjoy life
  • deal with life’s challenges
  • form and maintain positive relationships
  • reach your potential

Many people experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. But if things don’t seem to get better, it could be a sign of a mental illness.

Mental illnesses can have a big impact on how you think, feel and behave. Just like physical illnesses, treatment can assist those with mental illnesses. Anyone who thinks they have a mental health issue should think about seeking help.

What things can affect mental health?

A number of factors can negatively affect your mental health, including:

  • stress
  • bullying and harassment
  • alcohol and drug abuse
  • physical health problems
  • ageing
  • grief and loss
  • negative self-talk and low self-esteem
  • biological factors, such as genetics, hormones and chemistry
  • financial worries
  • family or relationship issues
  • a feeling of isolation

Having a difficult time doesn’t necessarily mean that your mental health is in danger. However, it’s worth talking to someone to get some advice.

These issues can lead to a mental illness, including depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and eating disorders.

How can I improve my mental health and wellbeing?

Below are some ways to to support and maintain good mental health:

  • regular exercise
  • a healthy diet
  • adequate sleep
  • cutting down or stopping drug or alcohol use
  • contact with friends and family
  • relaxing in ways that suit you

Although you can take steps to nurture your mental health, it’s very important to seek help and support when you need it.

If your mental health does not improve, see your doctor. They can organise a mental health plan or refer you to mental health professionals for treatment.

Where can I get help if I am feeling suicidal?

If you, or someone else, is at immediate risk of suicide, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance straight away.

If you are in a personal crisis or are feeling suicidal, contact:

  • Lifeline Call 13 11 14, text 0477 13 11 14 or go to www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Where can I find support for mental health issues?

There are resources, available online, in person, or over the phone, that can provide mental health information, support and advice.


Lack of self-esteem and confidence can affect your mental health.

You can find more advice on improving self-esteem at these websites:

  • au.reachout.com
  • www.headspace.com

Relationship Issues

Relationship issues with partners, friends and family members can all affect your mental health.

You can get online support and self-help programs through the organisations below:

  • Beyond Blue has peer support forums, including one on relationship and family issues
  • Breakup Shakeup is a mobile phone app developed by ReachOut
  • E-couch has online programs developed by the Australian National University

Support can also be found by calling:

  • MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
  • 1800Respect 1800 737 732
  • Relationships Australia 1300 364 277

Bullying and Harassment

Online resources for bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault support include:

  • 1800Respect
  • Beyond Blue
  • Lifeline

Work or Study Stress

Struggles with work or studying can affect your mental health. Go to www.headspace.org.au for resources, support, and self-help activities aimed at young people. In addition, Beyond Blue’s Heads Up program has advice on how to talk to your employer
about your mental health.

The Black Dog Institute also offers a range of mental health training programs for the workplace.

It might be worth checking to see if your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This is a confidential support service for employees.

Often places of study such as schools, universities and TAFE colleges have their own support services.

Or try these resources:

  • ReachOut at www.au.reachout.com has a quiz
    for people studying
  • Headspace at www.headspace.org.au has advice
    on how to lower stress and prepare for exams

Financial Stress 

Problems with money can have a negative impact on your mental health. There are services and resources available to:

  • teach about money management
  • provide advice and aid in times of financial
  • help you access a possible crisis payment

Online resources include:

  • Money Smart
  • Centrelink

Substance Abuse

Your mental health can be impacted by drug and alcohol use.

To speak with someone about substance abuse and mental health, you can call:

  • National Alcohol and Other Drugs Hotline 1800 250 015
  • Family Drug Support 1300 368 186
  • Stimulant Treatment Line 1800 101 188

You can find online support at:

  • Counselling Online
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Australia
  • Narcotics Anonymous Australia
  • The Department of Health and Aged Care has advice on how to quit smoking

Where can I find support for mental illness?

Support and information on mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can be found online.

Depression and Anxiety

  • Black Dog Institute
  • Beyond Blue
  • Understanding Anxiety
  • This Way up
  • MindSpot Clinic
  • BluePages

Personality Disorders

  • Borderline Personality Disorder Australia
  • Blue Knot Foundation for recovery from trauma
  • ReachOut is a support service for young people
  • SANE Australia

Eating Disorders

  • National Eating Disorders Collaboration
  • Butterfly Foundation 1800 33 4673

Additional Resources

If you want general mental health support and information:

  • Visit the Head to Health website at www.headtohealth.gov.au or call on 1800 595 212 from 8:30am to 5:00pm on weekdays (public holidays excluded), for advice, assessment and referral into local mental health services.
  • Visit the Black Dog Institute website at www.blackdoginstitute.org.au for resources, support and self-help tools.
  • Visit SANE Australia at www.sane.org or call 1800 18 7263.

Other Languages

  • The Transcultural Mental Health Centre has translated mental health resources in more than 40 languages.

Young People

  • ReachOut.com is a youth mental health service with online help.
  • Headspace provides mental health support for ages 12-25. Visit www.headspace.org.au call 1800 650 890 or make an appointment at your nearest headspace centre.
  • Kids Helpline is available for ages 5-25. Visit their website or call them on 1800 55 1800.

Parents or Guardians

There are mental health resources for parents, carers, and guardians. You can:

  • PANDA 1300 726 306
  • COPE www.cope.org.au
  • Beyond Blue has a relationship and family issues peer support forum

Older People

Age-related changes in your life and physical health can impact your mental health. Unformation and support for older adults can be found at Beyond Blue and SANE Australia.

If you are caring for an older person with a mental health condition, go to www.myagedcare.gov.au for support and information.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

  • Visit the www.13yarn.org.au website or call on 13 92 76 for mental health support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


  • Visit the Rainbow Door at www.rainbowdoor.org.au
  • Visit www.qlife.org.au or call 1800 184 527 to speak with someone.

People Living With Disability

  • The Disability Gateway website has mental health support for people living with disabilities.


* Information in this flyer has been sourced from Health Direct – Mental Health Resources.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm,
call triple zero (000)