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Approximately one in five adult Australians between 18-65 years of age will suffer a mental illness during the calendar year, with 45% of all Australians suffering from a mental illness during their lifetime. It is understood that mental illness can be influenced by biological and psychological conditions, and although most sufferers turn the corner to lead healthy and productive lives, there is much more that can be done. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses overseen by Real Response are an important part of the equation.

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What are the types of mental illness?

Stigma associated with mental illness can be difficult to deal with. A degree of negativity surrounds conditions that fall outside the parameters of societal norms and expectations, and it isn’t uncommon for a person to go-it-alone in their attempt to get healthy. It’s important to understand the types of mental illness, including methods for addressing the symptoms of the disease, whether it be the early signs of an illness manifesting, a full-blown life-threatening episode or an associated health problem. Here are some of the most common types of mental illness.


  • Anxiety disorders: A person with anxiety disorder is prone to experience strong feelings of fear or dread in certain situations. They are also likely to experience increased heart rate and sweating. Normal functioning is hindered with various types of anxiety disorders that include social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and a range of phobias.
  • Mood disorders: Also called affective disorders, mood disorders can involve persistent sadness, times of being overly happy, or extreme mood swings that fluctuate between happiness and sadness. Common mood disorders include depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression) and cyclothymic disorder.
  • Psychotic disorders: These disorders involve distorted perception and thinking. People experiencing psychotic disorders are prone to hallucinations, hearing voices and delusions that often involve adherence to false and unfounded beliefs. Schizophrenia is a common psychotic disorder.
  • Eating disorders: Centred around behavioural extremes involving weight and food, eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
  • Impulse control and addiction disorders: People experiencing these disorders are unable to resist impulses that lead to potentially harmful acts. Examples include kleptomania, pyromania and compulsive gambling. People with impulse control and addiction disorders become fixated to a degree that impairs relationships and responsibilities.
  • Personality disorders: Symptoms of personality disorders include inflexible or extreme personality traits. Behaviour and thought processes differ from societal expectations, often interfering with relationships and causing difficulties at work, school and home.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: This disorder is known to cause disturbing thoughts (obsessions) and excessive rituals (compulsions). A common obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a fear of germs and constant washing of hands.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: People who experience a traumatic or terrifying event can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sufferers experience long-lasting and frightening memories, with a tendency to become emotionally numb.

Other types of mental illness include dissociative disorders, stress response syndromes, gender identity disorders, factitious disorders and tic disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome.

How many different types of mental illness are there?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists almost 300 mental disorders. In addition, a person with a mental illness is likely to experience negativity, narrow-minded opinions and judgemental behaviour from others, potentially exacerbating the condition. In reality, almost all of us are in contact with someone experiencing mental illness, possibly without even knowing it.

With Real Response Mental Health First Aid training, you will learn how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental illness, respond to a mental health crisis, and coordinate efforts with medical experts, paramedics and helpers. A mental health crisis is dangerous and can put the safety of an individual or group of people at risk, making MHFA an essential strategy for keeping everyone safe from harm. Our course instructors are genuine legends who get real mental health results that include:

  • Healthy relationships with family, friends and co-workers
  • Productive achievements and behaviour at work, school and home
  • Ability to overcome adversity and adapt to change

    What are some mental health issues?

Every type of mental illness is associated with particular symptoms. Dramatic change experienced in mental illness can manifest suddenly or creep up over a long period of time, with effects noticed in a person’s moods, thoughts or behaviour. It’s important to acknowledge a mental illness before it spirals out of control, and Real Response will teach you the ways and means of achieving a positive and successful intervention using empathy, compassion, understanding and encouragement. Mental illness symptoms include:

  • Anxiety, excessive worry and fears
  • Unusual and illogical thoughts
  • A persistently sad or low mood
  • Fluctuating between depressed and euphoric moods
  • Hearing voices and seeing things no one else can perceive
  • Withdrawing from society
  • Self-harm and thoughts of suicide

Mental illness can be debilitating or even life-threatening. Ignorance of the issue is no excuse for allowing the problem to fester, and Real Response will teach you appropriate care methods that include self-care, assisted care, health professional guidance and fast emergency response.

How is mental illness defined?

Under the Mental Health Act 1990, mental illness is defined as ‘a condition characterised by the presence of symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, serious thought disorders, disturbed moods and sustained or repeated irrational behaviour.’ There is no single definition of mental illness as there are a range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural disorders known to negatively impact a person’s life.

A mental illness temporarily or permanently impairs the mental functioning of a person. The symptoms are recognised by the American Psychiatric Association as ‘a clinically significant behavioural or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress…or disability…or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom…’

How do you know if you have a mental illness?

Mental illness causes change or disturbance in a person’s thoughts or behaviour, often resulting in an inability to cope with life’s demands. Symptoms include changes in mood, personality and habits or withdrawal from social situations. Mental illness can have physical, emotional and psychological impacts and be caused by genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, environmental stresses, or a combination of these.

If you believe there is an underlying mental or psychological disturbance affecting your emotions or behaviour, you should seek out professional medical assistance. If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness it’s important to know you are not alone and help is available from health services. Mental illness affects family, friends and colleagues along with the sufferer, making Mental Health First Aid with Real Response an essential strategy for coping with mental illness and improving quality of life.

What causes mental illness?

There are various clinical, legal and social definitions of mental illness, although it is accepted that illnesses can be triggered by biological and psychological factors as well as difficulties in adapting to the expectations of society. Mental illness can be triggered by a single incident or a mix of factors that include:


  • Genetics: The chances of experiencing a mental illness are increased if other family members suffer from a mental illness.
  • Early life upbringing: Negative experiences such as abuse or neglect in childhood are linked to increased risk of certain mental illnesses.
  • Stress and trauma: Stress triggers include social isolation, domestic violence and relationship breakdown. A traumatic event, natural disaster or other stressful experience can potentially lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Alcohol and substance abuse: Unhealthy side-effects of drug or alcohol use include psychosis, paranoia, and manic (bipolar) episodes.
  • Personality traits: Traits that fall outside the spectrum of socially acceptable behaviour, such as perfectionism or low self-esteem increase the risk of anxiety or depression.
  • Biological triggers: These can include hormonal changes, body weight issues, and psychological reactions to short or long-term medical conditions.

Mental Health First Aid delivered by Real Response will show you when mental health first aid is required, where to access professional assistance, how to provide first aid in a crisis situation and the most effective forms of assistance available.


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