When people talk about ‘mental health’ they’re referring to the health of your mind and this also includes how you feel about yourself and how easily you cope with problems. When you are experiencing good mental health, it makes it easier for you to enjoy day-to-day activities and the world around you.

Your mental health can be affected by many different things and many different reasons. One of the signs that your mental health isn’t as healthy as it should be is that you don’t feel as good as you used to. If you have a mental health condition, it can affect:

• the way you feel
• the way you think and act
• how you interact with others
• your ability to concentrate.
We all feel low from time to time, but when you feel sad or anxious for a long time, generally for more than two weeks, it’s a sign that something might be wrong and it’s a good time to talk to a friend, family member, trusted adult or – even better – your doctor.

Depression is a mental illness which can affect anyone at any time, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and to look out for these in yourself and also your friends and family. It is also important to listen to friends and family members when they are feeling down and talk to them about what is going on.

Part of the reason that mental health isn’t spoken about as much as it should be is because people may feel ashamed or embarrassed about having a mental health problem and often don’t want anyone to know about it. This is called “stigma” and it prevents people from seeking help and talking to trusted friends and relatives when they need to.

It is really important to talk about how you’re going, as everyone has a right to be well and to enjoy life. Talking about how you are feeling, whether it’s good or not-so-good, and getting things off your chest, may help you to start feeling better. By talking openly about mental health problems, it helps to reduce stigma and may encourage others to seek information and help when needed.

Things that prevent young people from seeking help for depression and anxiety can include:

• stigma and fear of what people will think and say
• not knowing where to go or who to talk to
• wondering if it is just a normal part of growing up (it’s not!)
• fear that they may be seen as weak if they speak to parents, GP or another health professional.

The truth is that depression and anxiety disorders are illnesses, not weaknesses, and it’s important to talk about what’s going on and to seek help. There is a lot of information that can help you – or a friend – take that first step.

Remember to:

• Look for the signs of depression and anxiety disorders
• Listen to your friends’ experiences
• Talk about how you’re feeling
• Seek Help together.

Depression and anxiety are illnesses and help is available. With the right treatment, most people recover.

For more information about depression, anxiety and related disorders visit www.youthbeyondblue.com or call the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 3646. 

Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.