Mental health meanings

Mental health and wellbeing

Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorder or disability. It is "a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community"* (World Health Organisation, WHO, 2003).

Wellbeing is a state of mental and physical health characterised by comfort and happiness.

What do we mean by mental health changes?

Mental health changes can occur in stressful times. They affect the way you think, handle everyday situations, work and they can impact on your relationships. It is important to be aware of these changes and to get the right support at the right time. About one in four Australians will experience mental health changes at some time in their lives.

Mental ill-health

A small minority of people may experience mental health changes that may be defined as ill-health. Mental ill-health is defined as the spectrum of experiences that contributes to a compromise of mental wellbeing and can prevent a person from getting on their life as usual. Mental ill-health can significantly affect how a person thinks, behaves and interacts with others. It will impact on a person's ability to perform normal activities like work and study.

*World Health Organisation (2003) The Mental Health Context. Retrieved 19th September 2009, from

Student mental health

The 2017 Orygen report, ‘Under the Radar’, found evidence for rising rates of psychological distress among Australian higher education students. Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, rural students and those experiencing financial stress are at heightened risk. Other risk factors for mental ill-health among students include poor diet, lack of sleep and drug and alcohol use. International students are also at risk due to potential language barriers, displacement and disconnection from family, religion and culture.

Many university students do not seek help for mental ill-health. Reasons for this include experiences of stigma, poor responses from academic and service staff and a lack of understanding of where to seek support. Students experiencing mental ill-health are at risk of poor academic progression and may leave their course prior to completion.