Think of mental health as a continuum, with health at one side and illness at the other.

When does having a bad day become a mental health problem? Is a mental health problem the same as a mental illness?

Two words are really important here, severity and persistence. If something impacts upon a person to the point it interferes with their everyday life and goes on for a period of time – then it is time to seek help.

Problems encompass a broad range of emotional and behavioural difficulties which may cause intermittent concern or distress (such as failing an exam, work pressure, etc) whereas Illness or Disorders are more severe and enduring and usually defined using diagnostic criteria.

Like physical illnesses, there are MANY categories of mental illness, each one with different signs, symptoms and treatments. Diagnosis is made according to The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) or The ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) which detail the types of symptoms and for how long a person must be experiencing them.

About one in five adults will experience a mental illness and most of us will experience a mental health problem at some time in our lives.

The really worrying thing is nearly three-quarters of all people with a diagnosable mental disorder do not seek treatment. What would you think if you had four friends who all broke their arm but only one of them sought help? There are many reasons why people don’t seek help but the biggest one is around the stigma.

One of the big myths out there is that mental illnesses are not true illnesses like heart disease or diabetes. If your friend had a broken leg or he or she had just come out of hospital after an operation, you probably wouldn’t think twice about asking how they were. If they told you they had just received a diagnosis of schizophrenia or depression, would you still ask or would you avoid mentioning it for fear of saying the wrong thing?


Evidence which tells us that people who seek help early can prevent problems from becoming more serious and can reduce the likelihood of secondary effects such as problems with work. The longer people delay getting help and support, the more difficult their recovery can (MHFA Australia,2009)

Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate! Do You?

Join us next time when we explore what causes mental illness.


About Pam
Pam is a mental health practitioner with over thirty years of experience of mental health nursing and counselling in both the UK and Australia. Although she has worked in all fields of mental health, her passion is mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention. Pam has experience of a range of approaches and theories relating to evidence based therapeutic interventions, with qualifications in cognitive behavioural therapy, humanistic and psychodynamic counselling, solution focused therapy, stress management, meditation, mindfulness, EFT(tapping) and is an InRhythm© accredited drum circle and body percussion facilitator and registered Relax Kids Coach© Pam completed the first year of her Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) before her migration to Australia in 2010 and has completed her Certificate IV in Training & Assessment – TAE40116 .She loves sharing her knowledge and experience, empowering others and brings a sense of fun and creativity to her training. Pam is an accredited Mental Health First Aid instructor with Mental Health First Aid Australia.

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