Fact Sheet – Mental Health Illness

Mental illness is not a sign of weakness.

 Mental illness is not a sign of personal deficiency or a character flaw. The reasons for development of a mental illness are complex and are associated with a range of social, psychological and biological factors. When those factors converge, psychological distress or a mental health condition might result. Mental illness does not mean that you are weak or have done something wrong.

Mental illness is not “all in your head”.

Because a mental health condition is not necessarily visible from the outside, sometimes people assume that it’s not really real, that it’s just “in your head”. The reality is that these conditions are just as real as physical health disorders like heart disease or cancer, and a given condition has clusters of recognisable symptoms, just as physical conditions do. The difference is that these symptoms show up as changes to the way a person thinks, or feels or behaves rather than in something physical like a high temperature or broken bones.

Additional Resources if you’re really worried about yourself or someone else RIGHT NOW

VVCS 1800 011 046 www.vvcs.gov.au


Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au/


Suicide Call Back Service


1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/
SANE Australia 1800 187 263 www.sane.org/


Here are some quick do’s and don’ts for how to approach the issue: 


  • Communicate empathetically
  • Highlight that supports are available
  • Offer to have a conversation about what the veteran or family member requires right now


  • Offer advice on what you think the veteran or family member should do regarding their mental health
  • Say you understand what the person is going through
  • Blame the person or make critical comments about them
  • Dismiss or ignore the person’s concerns or distress

Examples of helpful responses

Issue Raised:


Sample Helpful Response:
When a person says that they are having difficulties or struggling to cope:


“It sounds like you’re going through a difficult time at the moment. We really want to be able to support you so it would be great to have a conversation about this when you are able.”


Do not say “Harden up” or “Well let me tell you about when I went through this…”


If a person says they are going into hospital:


“I really appreciate you telling me about what you’re going through. It sounds like things might be pretty difficult at the moment. We really want to support you, so please let us know how you’re doing and how we can help.”


Do not say “Get well soon”


Some things you can look out for in yourself or in someone you love or care about:

Mood Disorders.

Mood disorders refer to changes in mood, usually characterised by low mood and feelings of sadness. This is not just everyday sadness that we all might experience from time to time; rather, this is a pervasive experience of low mood that persists for longer than two weeks, and is characterised by a loss of interest and enjoyment in life that impairs daily functioning.

Some symptoms of mood disorders:

  • Low mood, tearfulness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Inability to feel good about oneself
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Withdrawal from social supports, including friends and family
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts

Signs of mood disorders that you might see in your mates or loved ones:

  • Withdrawing from others, not spending time with friends or family anymore
  • Forgetting things
  • Being overly self-critical and engaging in self-blame
  • Difficulties in expressing oneself clearly
  • Difficulties in making decisions
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of motivation, not doing usual activities
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

Anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders refer to a number of conditions characterised by excessive worry. Again, this is not just “nerves” or someone being a bit of a “worrier”, this anxiety has a notable negative effect on people’s functioning in their professional or personal lives and can result in significant changes in behaviour.

Some symptoms of anxiety disorders:

  • Feeling uneasy and on edge
  • Feeling worried or scared
  • Physical symptoms like dry mouth, headaches, rapid heart and respiration rate, shakiness, sweating
  • Persistent worry thoughts that something bad might happen
  • Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety

Signs of anxiety disorders that you might see in your mates or loved ones:

  • Seeking lots of reassurance
  • Asking excessive, unnecessary questions
  • Taking a long time to complete tasks
  • Distress or withdrawal associated with making mistakes
  • Distress if being observed by others while doing something
  • Distress in social encounters
  • Avoiding social situations 

Trauma- and stress-related disorders

Trauma- and stress-related disorders are conditions that have been triggered by some significant stressor. This might include a traumatic event in which a person could have died or been harmed, or a less extreme stressor like significant changes to personal circumstances, through sustaining a personal injury, or through being harassed or bullied. Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is one of the most common of these disorders, and is frequently experienced by our wounded military veterans and other emergency service personnel.

Some symptoms of PTSD:

  • Being extremely on edge and agitated
  • Avoiding situations that are reminiscent of the traumatic experience(s)
  • Having nightmares about traumatic experience(s)
  • Being irritable
  • Having low mood
  • Withdrawing from social supports

Signs of PTSD that you might see in your mates or loved ones:

  • Withdrawing or disengaging
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Erratic and inconsistent behaviour
  • Irritability and anger outbursts
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Difficulties in making decisions
  • Becoming overwhelmed and avoiding work or home tasks

Things to do that are helpful to promote good mental health

There are lots of things that you can do to improve and support your mental wellbeing:

Talking to someone about how you’re doing:


Contact a mate or family member who is caring and makes you feel supported. Try to keep in touch with people regularly, especially face-to-face, to reduce the risks of social isolation.


Take some time out to do activities that you find enjoyable and meaningful:


Go for a walk in nature, spend some time with family or friends, exercise, listen to music, or anything else that you find brings you some positive feelings. You should still try to do these activities even when you don’t really feel like it.


Exercise and eat well:Take steps to ensure a good diet and exercise is part of daily life; eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and taking regular exercise is excellent for stress management and good mental health.
Access support from a professional


Speaking to your GP, or getting in touch with a psychologist, is a really great way to get support from someone who will be able to teach you the skills you need to start feeling better. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it takes a lot of courage and will help you to bring support around you and make a positive change in your life.



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