Mental health is complex, and it’s helpful to think about it as a spectrum.
At one end of the spectrum is mentally healthy. At this end of the spectrum, you feel able to work and study, feel connected to others, be involved in activities that you enjoy, and respond to life changes and challenges.
At the other end of the spectrum is mental ill-health. Mental ill-health refers to a group of conditions, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc. These conditions can significantly impact how a person feels, thinks and behaves.
Mental ill-health is common. One in five Australians aged 16 to 85 years will experience a mental illness in any one year.
The middle of the spectrum varies between these two ends, from a coping area, where you might feel a little pressure but are generally okay, to a difficulty area, where you might feel like you’re not doing so well.
Where you feel you are on the spectrum can change from day-to-day depending on many factors.
The benefits of good mental health
Being mentally healthy is linked to creativity, productivity, positive social relationships, and improved physical health and life expectancy.
There are several things you can do to look after and support your mental health and wellbeing. For example, many people cope with stress by getting involved with sports, exercising, meditating, or practising yoga or relaxation techniques. Others express themselves through art, such as poetry, writing or music. What you eat might also affect your mood – a well-balanced diet will help keep you both physically and mentally healthy.
Signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties
- not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that you would normally enjoy;
- changes in appetite or sleeping patterns;
- being easily irritated;
- finding that you aren’t performing at university or work like you used to;
- being involved in risky behaviour that you would usually avoid, like taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol, or depending on these substances to feel ‘normal’;
- feeling sad or crying more often;
- having trouble concentrating or remembering things;
- having negative, distressing, bizarre or unusual thoughts;
- feeling unusually stressed or worried; and
- feeling things have changed or aren’t quite right.
Contributors to mental health difficulties
It is important to remember that mental ill-health is never someone’s fault. There is no one cause of mental ill-health. Instead, there are a number of overlapping factors that might increase the likelihood of developing mental ill-health, such as:
- your current circumstances, including as stress at university or work, money problems, difficult personal relationships, or problems within your family;
- difficult life experiences, including abuse, neglect, or the loss of someone close to you;
- individual factors, including coping skills and thinking styles; and
- biological factors, including a family history of mental ill-health.
What to do
If you are struggling with any aspect of your mental health, here are some things that may help.
- Create social connections by getting involved with Deakin’s clubs and societies.
- Speak with someone you trust.
- Learn skills for tough times
- Eat well.
- Stay active.
- Get enough sleep.
- Cut back on alcohol and other drugs.
Remember, mental health is complex. If you are struggling with any aspect of your mental health, there is lots of help available for you at Deakin.
Away from Deakin:
- Beyond Blue have information about depression and online support forums for people experiencing depression.
- Lifeline (call: 13 11 13) have information and support for people who feel suicidal and people concerned about someone they know.
- 13YARN (call: 13 92 76) is a 24/7 crisis support service that provides a culturally safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to yarn about their worries, needs and concerns.
- QLife (call: 1800 184 527) provides information and support LGBTIQ+ people and their loved ones. You can speak with someone at QLife by calling or visiting their QLife between 3pm and midnight every day.
- headspace provide mental health support to young people aged 12-25.
More help and advice
headspace can assist you with tips to keep good mental health.
If you don’t feel quite right, but you’re not sure why, ReachOut can help you figure out what’s going on and connect you with the right supports.