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What is mental health?

11 July 2022

Perinatal mental health Mental health
Mental health encapsulates our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing and affects the way we think, feel and act. It can also determine how we manage stress, interact with others and our ability to make healthy life choices.
Mental health is an important part of living and has an effect on every stage of our lives, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood.

Despite being used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. You can experience episodes of poor mental health without being diagnosed with an illness. Likewise a person who has a mental illness can also enjoy periods of good physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Research shows that people who maintain a high level of mental health generally experience increased learning, creativity and productivity. According to Beyond Blue, they also exhibit more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships, with improved physical health and life expectancy. In contrast, mental health conditions can cause distress, impact on day-to-day functioning and relationships, and are associated with poor physical health and premature death from suicide.   

Having said that, mental health conditions are extremely common, with one-in-five (20 per cent) of Australians aged 16-85 experience some form of mental illness each year. Mental health is the fastest growing area of need in our communities, exceeding the number of people in Australia seeking therapy for relationship and/or parenting issues. The simple fact is that people who experience mental illness more often than not, present exactly the same as someone experiencing good mental health. 

“When imagining someone with a mental health condition, picture your mum, your brother, sister, son, daughter or friend,” offers St John of God Langmore Centre’s Chief Executive Officer Linda Allen — a mental health facility located in Berwick that caters to people seeking evidenced-based therapy and psychiatric care for the treatment of conditions such as depression, mood disorders, anxiety, psychosis, and alcohol and other drug dependencies.

Figures from the Black Dog Institute suggest that 75 per cent of people who access mental health inpatient care, improve markedly – with early intervention being the key to providing immediate and long-term positive outcomes. It’s the very reason mental health hospitals such as the Langmore Centre exist.

In addition to treating these more common conditions, St John of God Health Care has also identified the need to address perinatal mental health in this region. The statistics for new parents show that one-in-five mothers of children aged two and under are being diagnosed with depression. It’s not just mothers, however, men can also experience depression or anxiety during and following the birth of their baby – that number reflects one-in-10 dads. Furthermore, a survey of 650 fathers revealed that those with perinatal mental health issues were 20-26 times more likely to present with suicide risk.

It’s an area of mental health that was not adequately serviced in Melbourne’s south east until recently when St John of God Health Care opened Casey-Cardinia’s first perinatal mental health wing in its new Langmore Centre facility. Issues associated with perinatal mental health are very treatable and St John of God Health Care has a long history of providing specialised mental health services locally, including St John of God Raphael Services which offers outpatient support with early-invention counselling and therapy for new parents and their families.

For more information on St John of God Langmore Centre's services call 03 9773 7000 or email: [email protected]
Jennine Dodd - Copywriter
Jennine Dodd is a copywriter for St John of God Health Care's South East Melbourne hospitals. She has more than 20 years’ experience in interviewing, and writing/editing for magazines, company publications, social media and websites.