Understanding their mental illness

Understanding mental illness can help you to better support your loved one

What exactly is a mental illness?

A mental illness causes mild to severe disturbances in thoughts, feelings and/or behaviours. Mental illness can make it incredibly challenging, or even impossible to cope with life's ordinary 'ups and downs'. It can cause significant problems for people, such as interrupting work and home routines and affecting their ability to relate to others.

Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These illnesses are identified through 'symptoms' or prolonged changes in a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

There are a number of warning signs that a person may be struggling with mental health problems. The sooner these mental health problems are recognised and support and treatment offered, the better the outcome for your loved one. You could make a real difference to them by arming yourself with some basic knowledge and the right attitude.

What can I do to better understand

  • Arm yourself with knowledge about the symptoms of specific mental illnesses, so that you are aware of warning signs if they arise.
  • Ask questions and try to be patient and listen with an open mind.
  • Ask how you can support the person who is struggling.
  • Be understanding and let individuals know they don't have to manage on their own.
  • Encourage the person to see a doctor or find out if your loved one is open to you making an appointment yourself to find out about what options there are for treatment.
  • Remember to ask parents about their children. (Read about how you can support the child too).

Information about mental illness

The symptoms of each mental illness can vary from person to person. Information about symptoms and possible treatments can be obtained from the SANE and beyondblue websites.