About mental health

Mental health has a huge impact on every aspect of people's lives. It affects behaviour, physical health, work and relationships, as well as the people around them. Find out what we’re doing to support people’s mental health in Australia.

Get help now

In an emergency, call 000.

Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anywhere in Australia. If you need help now, call:

Find a list of services that can help you right now at Head to Health

If you need urgent care, go to the emergency department at your local hospital. If you have private hospital insurance cover, you can upgrade your cover to access in-hospital psychiatric care and receive inpatient mental health care once, before the waiting period is completed.

What mental health is

Mental health is a state of wellbeing that enables you to deal with what life throws at you.

It is about feeling resilient, enjoying life and being able to connect with others.

Good mental health helps you:

  • cope with the normal stresses of life
  • be productive both at work and in your private life
  • relate well to other people
  • contribute to your community.

Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

The impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19), physical distancing and isolation can make you feel anxious, stressed and worried. It can also worsen existing mental health conditions.

We are supporting people’s mental health during the pandemic, including through:

  • providing extra funding for Primary Health Networks to boost existing mental health services, including for vulnerable groups such as older Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • improving and expanding the headspace network to support young people
  • providing extra funding for the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service, which includes a 24/7 phone support service, web chat support service and online forums
  • boosting services such as Lifeline, Kids Helpline and other digital services to support specific groups
  • doubling the Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions under the Better Access initiative for people with a mental health care plan from 10 to 20 sessions
  • providing additional help and support to people of all ages living in NSW, Vic and the ACT through Head to Heath Pop Up services.

Read more about what we’re doing and what you can do to look after your mental wellbeing during the pandemic.

Why mental health matters

Almost half of all Australians adults – 7.3 million people – will face mental ill-health at some point. 

It can affect anyone at any stage of life, and can have a negative effect not just on your own life, but also on the people around you, your community and Australia as a whole.

People living with mental ill-health are at higher risk of:

  • having physical health issues
  • being unemployed
  • being homeless
  • being in prison.

The estimated cost of mental ill-health on Australia's economy is up to $220 billion each year.

We are working to build a better mental health system that improves the lives of people with, or at risk of, mental illness.

Find out what we’re doing about mental health in Australia.

How mental health affects us

Your mental health affects how you think, feel and act.

It influences how you handle stress, how you relate to people, and how you see yourself and the world around you.

It shapes the choices you make throughout the course of your life, and has an impact on your work, relationships, and even physical health.

There are many types of mental health conditions and disorders. The most common are:

  • anxiety
  • affective disorders, including depression
  • substance use disorders, including alcohol use.

Each condition:

  • has a variety of symptoms
  • can be short or long term
  • can affect people in different ways – some have mild symptoms, while others have severe symptoms that can lead to harm to themselves or others.

With the right support, you can manage and improve mental ill-health, and maintain your mental health.

Mental health through life

Your mental health can change as you go through various stages in your life, and many factors can contribute. For example:

  • biological factors, such as genes, brain chemistry or hormonal changes
  • family history of mental ill-health
  • life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • major stress, such as financial or work-related stress
  • significant life changes, such as a relationship breakup, the death of a loved one, pregnancy and birth, or ageing.

Mental health treatment and support

If you feel worried, anxious or depressed, seek help.

As a first step, seek online or phone support, or see your doctor.


Healthdirect provides quality, approved mental health information, advice and resources. These are tailored to the needs of different groups, including older Australians, children and young people, veterans and carers.

Healthdirect can also help you with information on:

  • various conditions and disorders
  • signs and symptoms
  • helpline numbers
  • where to get help
  • recovery
  • services in each state and territory.

Head to Health

Head to Health provides information, advice and links to free and low-cost phone and online mental health services and supports to help you or someone you know.

This includes:

  • ways to improve your wellbeing
  • ways to help someone you are worried about
  • information on specific mental health conditions
  • support for specific community groups
  • links to relevant digital services suited to your needs.

Better Access initiative

You might be eligible for Medicare rebates to get support and treatment under the Better Access initiative. Talk to your general practitioner (GP) about getting a mental health care plan as a first step.


Find mental health support contacts.

Preventing suicide

Suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged between 15 and 49. We lose more people to suicide each year than to road accidents.

Suicide is a complex issue, affected by a wide variety of factors. Although mental ill-health is often a contributing factor, not everyone who dies by suicide will have been experiencing mental ill-health. Suicide deaths have also been associated with life stressors, such as social isolation, relationship breakdown and financial hardship.

Suicide has an enormous impact on families, friends and communities.

It’s critical people who are at risk of suicide get the support they need. We have plans, strategies and programs, and we fund research, to help prevent suicide.

Lifestyle and mental health

Many factors that affect mental health are preventable. You can make a difference by:

Find out what we’re doing to keep Australians healthy.

Date last updated:

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.