Living with a Mental Illness

Life + mental illness.

Everyone gets stressed or sad some of the time. But if it starts to feel like you’re always really down or nervous, it could be a sign that you need some help. This might mean talking to a friend or parent about what’s going on, or maybe seeing a professional who can help you work out the best way to deal with how you’re feeling.

While the idea of seeking professional help might seem a little overwhelming, it’s really important to remember:

You’re not alone

Depression and anxiety is really common, and it can affect all kinds of people. In Australia, 1 in 16 young people are currently dealing with depression and 1 in 6 are living with anxiety. Every day doctors, counsellors and psychologists treat loads of different people with these issues.

Treatment plans can really help

By seeing someone about how you’re feeling, you can develop a plan of action. Because anxiety or depression is pretty common, research has shown really effective ways of dealing with it. The important thing is finding the one which suits you best and controls your condition – instead of the other way around.

If you feel like your symptoms aren’t too bad, you might only need to change your daily routine by adding in some exercise or eating healthier food.

If your situation is more intense than that, you might need to try other methods like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, antidepressants, joining a support group or trying out an eTherapy, like the ones on offer at headspace.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

This kind of treatment involves talking with a therapist about the way you think and act, to better understand how this affects the way you feel.

Thoughts (cognition) + Actions (behaviour) = emotions

If you are constantly thinking about things in a negative way and repeating negative behaviours, this will have an impact on your emotional state. This might make it harder to deal with stressful situations, anxiety or anger.

At the same time, if your thoughts are mostly positive, and you try to do things that make you feel good (like hanging out with good friends, reading a book or going for a walk) this will also have a positive effect on the way you feel.

CBT is a really helpful process which can help you to stop negative thought cycles or behaviours, and focus more on positive solutions to situations. Basically, important tools for everyday life!

There are a few different types of CBT – check out this page by beyond blue for more info.


Most young people who seek help for anxiety or depression will first try CBT techniques. In serious cases where CBT doesn’t have a strong effect, doctors may decide that medication like antidepressants would be a better option. This decision is never made lightly – only after really careful planning and consideration will a doctor prescribe antidepressants.

To find out more about how these kinds of medications work, take a look at this fact sheet.

Support Groups

Sometimes talking about your feelings in a group setting can be a great way to break down the issues and find other people who are going through a similar thing. This can be done online through youth forums like ReachOut or youthbeyondblue, or you could go to a support group in person. Contact your local Neighbourhood House to find out what kinds of support groups are available in your area.


Another excellent option for support is online therapy sessions. eHeadspace offers a totally confidential free* service for young people aged 12 to 25 years. You can chat to a qualified youth mental health professional over the web, by email or you can speak on the phone.

(*If you call from a mobile, charges will apply but they’re happy to call you back.)

Click here for a list of Support Services.