‘A mental illness/disorder is a diagnosable illness that significantly interferes with a person’s social abilities. Mental illnesses/disorders are of different types and degrees of severity and include depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders and psychosis’ (World Health Organisation).
Psychiatric disability and mental illness are often used interchangeably. Mental illness refers to the actual disorder, while psychiatric disability refers to the impairment the individual experiences as a result of mental illness.
Not every person who has had a mental illness will experience a disability. Many people recover from an episode of illness and enjoy long periods of complete health. Psychiatric disability is seldom permanent, and the level of disability experienced often fluctuates. Most mental illnesses are episodic and the majority are treatable.
Mental illness or disorders can affect anyone from any social or ethnic background, with any intelligence level and at any age. It is estimated that one in five of the population will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.
Disclosure is often a very difficult issue for people with mental illness due to stigma, misconceptions and prejudices demonstrated daily in our community, media and historical literature. Privacy and confidentiality principles are critical for developing and maintaining trust.
National Mental Health Strategy: http://www.health.gov.au/mentalhealth
Beyond Blue, the national depression initiative: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/
The Mood Gym, online cognitive therapy for depression: http://www.moodgym.anu.edu.au/