General Psychiatry

What Is Mental Illness


Good mental health means more than the absence of symptoms. It means the ability to manage life competently and to deal in a reasonably robust way with the challenges it inevitably throws at us from time to time.
 It means being able to take satisfaction and pleasure in everyday life. This includes the range of feelings and thoughts we have in life, in response to what happens to us.
It’s normal to feel sad, lonely, disappointed, or confused at times. When these feelings persist and interfere with the ability to lead and enjoy everyday life, then it’s a good idea to talk to a psychiatrist about any possible mental health problem that might need attention.

What Are Mental Health Disorders?

Mental health issues includes a wide range of conditions that affect how we feel and think. Most of these are first experienced in the late teens or early twenties, but may only emerge later in life. 

Like many physical illnesses, mental health issues are thought to arise from the interaction of genetic vulnerability and stresses in life. An example of this is heart disease, caused by the interaction of inherited vulnerability and lifestyle factors such as diet and level of physical activity. It’s not a question of ‘nature or nurture’ therefore, but the interaction of both. The same holds true of mental health problems.

All of us have varying degrees of genetic vulnerability to developing mental health issues, but these may only be triggered depending on the degree of stress we experience, from possible exposure to viruses in the womb, through to early childhood experience, later drug use, or highly distressing events in relationships or at work. For people who are highly vulnerable, the stress may only need to be slight. For others who are more robust, it may be an extreme, traumatic event which triggers an episode of mental ill health. None of this means that you’re broken or that you, or your family, did something “wrong.” Mental illness is no one’s fault. And for many people, recovery — including meaningful roles in social life, school and work — is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.

Mental health disorders includes the more common conditions such as Anxiety Disorders & Depression, as well as the far less common but often more severe conditions such as Psychosis & Schizophrenia. 

Mental disorders sometimes come as a single episode, but sometimes a lifelong condition. They can be sometimes transitory, or other times causing psychosocial disability requiring long-term support. Thankfully, there are effective treatments and support which help most people affected to manage or even eliminate symptoms.

Who Is At Risk From Mental Disorders?

Determinants of mental health and mental disorders include not only individual attributes such as the ability to manage one's thoughts, emotions, behaviors and interactions with others, but also social, cultural, economic, political and environmental factors such as national policies, standards of living, working conditions, and community support. Stress and genetics are also contributing factors to mental disorders.

Treatments Used in Mental Health Disorders

Psychiatrists use a variety of treatments – including medications, various forms of psychotherapy, psychosocial interventions and other treatments depending on the needs of each patient. 

Treatments for mental health issues are generally very effective, when people receive optimal treatment. Unfortunately, not enough people receive this optimal, ‘best possible’ service because of a range of issues: under-resourced mental health services, difficulties in access, the challenge of providing services in rural and remote areas, and the high numbers of people not receiving treatment, as well as those who choose not to receive treatment because of their symptoms. 


For people affected by certain conditions, medication can be an important – even essential – part of treatment. It is important that the particular medication and dose is well-suited to help the person most effectively, and that side-effects are monitored and minimized.


Many people affected by mental health issues are helped by various form of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps by giving an opportunity to talk about thoughts and feelings with a suitably-qualified therapist in order to understand why we think and feel in this way, and to adapt these in more helpful, positive, and less distressing ways.