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Mental Health & Mental Illness

Keeping healthy and happy involves looking after our physical and mental health.

What is mental health?

A lot of people don't really understand what mental health is. They think 'mental health' has something to do with not being very smart or being strange. This is not true. The truth is we all have mental health just like we all have physical health. Different parts of our body have a job to do like our skin, and our bones. The brain is very complex and controls the way our body works. It also has important chemicals that give us messages about laughing, crying, running, and many other things. Sometimes these chemicals get mixed up and the person feels and acts 'weird'. They may not know why they are acting this way and they are not able to change it on their own. The person may seem very sad or grumpy, they may be jumpy or getting worried about small things. They may believe things are happening which are not real. Mental health is about the way we think and feel about ourselves and our world. It's about how we handle our everyday lives, like making and keeping friends, keeping up with school work and getting along with our family. So just like our physical health, there are times we feel well and happy and times we don't feel so great.

What is physical health?

Physical health is about keeping our bodies as healthy as we can. There are times when we all get sick and need to look after ourselves so we can get better. Looking after our physical health involves things like getting enough rest, eating healthy foods, exercising and getting help from doctors and other health professionals if we need medicine or other treatment to get better when we are sick.

So what is mental illness?

Some Facts......

  • Sometimes people's mental health may become 'sick' and they may become unwell. This is sometimes called mental illness.
  • Mental illness makes a person think, act and feel differently.
  • Mental illness can happen to any person of any age, living in any country in the world. This might be a parent, a brother or sister, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt or cousin.
  • In Australia one person out of every five has a mental illness at some time in their life.
  • You cannot 'catch' mental illness, like you can catch a cold.
  • Mental illness is nobody's fault.
  • You cannot cause mental illness. Nothing you may have said or done caused the mental illness.
  • It is also not your responsibility to 'fix' the mental illness. Treating mental illness is the responsibility of adults.
  • Because someone in your family has a mental illness it does not mean that you will have a mental illness.
  • Mental illness can be harder to understand than other illnesses, because you can't see mental illness, like you can see a broken arm, or you can see if someone has a bad ear ache.
  • Several things go together to cause mental illness - people who have a mental illness may have more than just one of these things... different way the brain works; extra worries or stress; sometimes using non-prescription drugs.


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