• There is a range of services available to assist you with emotional and mental health difficulties. If you need help, it’s important that you seek advice early.
  • You should discuss your problem with your doctor or community health centre professional, who may refer you to a specialist mental health service.
If emotional or behavioural problems are significantly disrupting your life, it’s important that you seek professional assistance early.

The term ‘mental health problem’ describes a broad range of emotional and behavioural difficulties, which will affect most people at some stage in their lives, including:
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy or motivation.

People experiencing these feelings may get through the crisis without needing professional help. However, it is sometimes difficult for people to overcome emotional or behavioural difficulties, and this may affect their ability to care for themselves or their dependents, to socialise, to work or to study. In these instances, it may be important to seek advice from a professional.

Almost all mental health problems can be treated or at least lessened in their severity and – as with many physical health problems – it is better to receive treatment early.

Symptoms of mental health problems

Specialist psychiatric assessment is required to diagnose a serious mental illness or disorder. However, symptoms that may indicate something serious is going on include:
  • Bizarre or unusual thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Significant changes of mood, such as pronounced depression, pronounced anxiety, or pronounced elevation in mood
  • Restless, agitated and disorganised behaviour, or marked decrease in activity
  • Significant impairment of social and/or occupational functioning
  • Significant impairment in self-care
  • Suicidal thoughts or acts of self-harm
  • Destructive or high risk behaviour
  • Confusion and disorientation.

Help for mental health problems

In urgent mental health and crisis situations, the emergency ambulance and police may be the first point of contact for the public on emergency ‘000’.

If you need non-urgent help, you should contact your local doctor or community health centre in the first instance. Doctors have a key role in managing mental health problems. They can provide assessment and treatment for many common problems, such as depression and anxiety, and can give formal referrals to psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners if needed.

Another option is to discuss your problems with a trained counsellor. Counselling may be available at your local community health centre.(CHC), which can offer a range of community health services to local residents with a focus on health promotion, disease prevention and management. The location of your nearest CHC can be accessed through your local telephone directory or council offices.

Specialist mental health services are available

Public specialist mental health services are available to assess and treat people with serious mental illness, including those experiencing a psychiatric crisis. People who have a serious mental illness or disorder will usually have a significant disturbance in thought, mood, or behaviour.

Specialist mental health services can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can locate the service applicable to your area at (click on the ‘accessing services’ tab).

Professional staff at the specialist mental health service will ask you about the problem, including questions about why you have contacted the service and whether you have used public mental health services before. This information will help staff decide which service is most useful to you.

Services available to children and adolescents include:
  • Community-based assessment and treatment
  • Inpatient care.

Services available for adults include:
  • Continuing clinical care
  • Crisis assessment and treatment
  • Mobile support and treatment
  • Acute inpatient care
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Non-residential rehabilitation
  • Secure extended inpatient care
  • Residential and non-residential disability support.

Services available for older persons include:
  • Assessment and treatment
  • Acute inpatient care
  • Interim mental health residential hostel or nursing home care.

A case manager will oversee treatment

If you are assessed as needing specialist mental health treatment, then a case manager will be assigned to you. A case manager is a mental health professional who will coordinate the services provided to you. The case manager could be a psychiatric nurse, a social worker, an occupational therapist or a psychologist.

Where to get help

  • Your local doctor
  • A community health centre in your area
  • SuicideLine Tel 1300 651 251
  • Lifeline Tel. 13 11 14
  • Kids Help Line Tel. 1800 55 1800
  • Mensline Australia Tel. 1300 789 978

Things to remember

  • There is a range of services available to assist you with emotional and mental health difficulties. If you need help, it’s important that you seek advice early.
  • You should discuss your problem with your doctor or community health centre professional, who may refer you to a specialist mental health service.
  • Mental health & wellbeing – publication resources, Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing More information here.

More information

Mental illness

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Types of mental illness

Support, services and treatment

Living with mental illness

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Department of Health and Human Services - HSP&A - Mental Health

Last updated: February 2012

Page content currently being reviewed.

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.