Mental Illness and Mental Health


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Mental Health Newsletter January 2019

Welcome to the first Mental Health Newsletter in 2019. The topic for the month of January is Mental Health and Mental Illness.

three women sitting on grass
Photo by Luis Quintero on

What is Mental Health?

The World Health Organisation defined mental health in 2014 as “a state of well-being in which every individual:

  • realises his or her own potential
  • can cope with the normal stressors of life
  • can work productively and fruitfully, and
  • is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.”

What is Mental Illness?

  • Mental Illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour (or a combination of these).
  • For something to be considered a mental illness, It must cause significant distress or functional impairment at work, with studies, at home, or socially with family and friends
  • Males are more likely to externalise their distress or act out – they experience more substance abuse, anger, violence and suicide than females
  • Females are more likely to internalise their distress or struggle on the inside – more depression, anxiety, eating disorders and sleep problems than in males

5 Facts About Mental Illness (WHO’s Fact File):

  1. Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental health difficulties
  2. Mental health and substance use difficulties are the leading cause of disability worldwide
  3. About 800,000 people commit suicide every year, making it the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-29
  4. Rates of mental health difficulties tend to double after emergencies (including natural disasters)
  5. Stigma and discrimination against individuals with mental health difficulties and their families often prevents them from seeking help
two women with man hugging by the sea

Common forms of Mental Illness

Anxiety and Depression are the two most common forms of mental health issues, but there are many others, including sleep difficulties.

Below is a chart from that highlights the worldwide prevalence rates of mental illnesses:

Disorder Share of global population with disorder (2016) Number of people with the disorder (2016) Share of males:females with disorder (2016)
Any mental or substance use disorder 15.5%[13-22%] 1.1 billion 16% males 15% females
Depression 4%[2-6%] 268 million 3% males 4.5% females
Anxiety disorders 4%[2.5-6.5%] 275 million 3% males 4.7% females
Bipolar disorder 0.6%[0.4-1.5%] 40 million 0.55% males 0.65% females
Eating disorders (clinical anorexia & bulimia) 0.14%[0.05-0.55%] 10.5 million 0.07% males 0.2% females
Schizophrenia 0.3%[0.2-0.45%] 21 million 0.29% males 0.28% females
Alcohol use disorder 1.4%[0.5-5%] 100 million 1.9% males 0.8% females
Drug use disorder (excluding alcohol) 0.9%[0.4-3.3%] 62 million 1.1% males 0.5% females

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Feel sad most of the time
  • Don’t feel like doing anything
  • Don’t enjoy things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of energy and fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or plans

Symptoms of Mania (Part of Bipolar Disorder):

  • Elevated or irritable mood
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increased activity and energy
  • Increased talkativeness or rapid speech
  • Risky behaviour without thinking of consequences (spending, sex, gambling, drugs, driving, big life changes)
  • Easily distracted
  • Grandiosity or inflated self-esteem

Symptoms of Psychosis or Schizophrenia:

  • Delusions: fixed false belief not shared by others in the person’s culture
  • Hallucinations: hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
  • Disorganized speech or behaviour:
    • Mumbling
    • Laughing to self
    • Strange appearance
    • Signs of self-neglect or unkempt appearance

Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders (Alcohol or other drugs):

  • Acute intoxication: a transient condition following intake of a substance resulting in disturbances of consciousness, cognition, perception, affect or behaviour.
  • Overdose: When a person has had too much of a substance and they have acute adverse physical reactions or mental effects.
  • Withdrawal: Unpleasant symptoms following the cessation of a substance – usually the opposite symptoms of the substance used.
  • Harmful use: Using a substance to the point where it damages health, relationships or work and/or study.
  • Dependence: A loss of control over how much someone uses a substance and a reliance on the substance on a regular basis. Includes strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms when not using.
people taking group hug
Photo by on

Managing Mental Illness

  • Mental illnesses are preventable. There are effective strategies for preventing mental disorders such as depression.
  • Mental illnesses are treatable. There are effective treatments for mental disorders and ways to alleviate the suffering caused by them.
  • Some mental illness may need to be managed by medication, especially Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Severe Depression.
  • Other mental illness can be managed effectively through talking strategies such as Mental Health Psychosocial Support or Psychological Therapy. Especially anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, post-traumatic stress, and mild to moderate depression.
  • Access to health care and social services capable of providing treatment and social support is key. This is where you can all help by referring anyone that you think may be struggling with a mental illness to the MindCare clinic at the hospital in your province.

If you are in Vanuatu and would like further information and assistance regarding mental health please contact:-

Mind Care Clinic
Psychiatry Department
VOIP: 1972

Namalinuan Clinic

Mental Health Clinic

Mental Health Clinic

Mental Health Clinic

or reach out to us via the Mental Health Vanuatu Facebook page.


Dr Damon Ashworth

Clinical Psychologist

Published by Dr Damon Ashworth

I am a Clinical Psychologist. I completed a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at Monash University and a Bachelor of Behavioural Sciences and a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences with Honours at La Trobe University. I am passionate about the field of Psychology, and apply the latest empirical findings to best help individuals meet their psychological and emotional needs.

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