Mental Health

Young people will experience significant social, emotional, physiological and psychological changes as they develop. This can lead to considerable changes in their health and wellbeing.

Mental health issues are the most prevalent in young people, with 25% experiencing a mental health issue at some point; and the median age of onset being under the age of 24. Anxiety and depression are the leading causes of the burden of disease and injury in young people. Furthermore, only 28.6% of young people experiencing mental health issues access support services – this is the lowest access rate among all age groups, and highlights the need for increased promotion, prevention and early intervention


Stigma, myths and a lack of awareness surrounding mental illness can be a significant barrier to support and treatment. As a worker you can help young people become aware of the facts about mental illness and link them to appropriate supports. It is also important to be aware that young people may be affected by friends, parents/carers or other family members who are experiencing mental health issues. 


This is a brief glossary of mental health terms written in a youth-friendly way that you can share with young people. 


Stress is having lots of worries, tension in the body, and problems that just don’t seem to go away. It can make people feel grumpy, sad, cross and find it hard to have fun and enjoy things. Our bodies can feel stress – it can make people feel tight and achy and very tired. 


Anxiety is a feeling that something bad is going to a happen. Young people with anxiety may worry about failing tests at school, thinking their friends don’t like them or that they’re going to make a fool of themselves. As well as worrying all the time, young people may have physical symptoms, like tense muscles, stomach aches or headaches, nausea or dizziness – even that they’re going to faint, have a heart attack or die! The thing about all these worries is that they are very unlikely to actually happen.


Depression is a mental illness, which affects people’s ability to feel happy, and stops them from wanting to do things for long periods of time. Sometimes it makes them very tired and really grumpy for no reason. Sometimes it makes them cry a lot and hide away from people. Depression makes people feel sad, and hopeless for long periods of time.


A disorder is a condition that affects the way the mind works. A person with a disorder might think, feel or act differently to how they normally act when they are healthy. It is a serious health problem. 


Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness, which affects how a person feels and behaves. There are two phases in a bipolar disorder. People often move between them both. One phase is where a person can be very emotional and highly excited, the person can have difficulty concentrating and believe they do not need much sleep. They can also overspend and believe very grand things about themselves. This stage is called a manic episode. The other phase is when they can feel very sad and lonely and feel bad about themselves. This stage is called a depressive episode. Occasionally people feel excited and sad at the same time. This is called a mixed episode.


Personality Disorder is a broad term and covers a few different types of personality disorders. Sometimes you may hear this disorder called Borderline personality disorder, or Paranoid personality disorder, or Antisocial personality disorder by mental health workers. What a personality disorder means is that the person interprets what other people do and say differently to how most other people would. For example, the person can seem to get very angry or very sad quickly, more so than other adults you know. This is called finding it hard to “regulate emotions”. It means the person may be very angry and fight a lot with other family members and friends (and even strangers). 


A delusion is when someone gets confused and they think that something is true and it isn’t. For example, they might think that they are very sick and are going to die, even though the doctors have told them that they are healthy.


A hallucination is when someone hears something or sees something that isn’t really there; it’s like their mind is “playing tricks” on them. Some people might think they can hear people calling out to them, or see people that aren’t really there. Experiencing a hallucination or a delusion can be very confusing and sometimes scary.


Paranoia is a symptom of mental illness. It can be very frightening for the person who may have beliefs that there are people who are trying to hurt them, or that they are being followed or spied on. It is very hard for people who are paranoid to trust others.


Psychosis is an illness that makes people think and behave differently to the way they usually would think or behave. For example, they might believe things that aren’t true, see and hear things that aren’t actually there, say things they usually wouldn’t say, become really excited or really sad, and do things they normally wouldn’t do. 


When a person with schizophrenia is unwell, they can experience a lot of different things. They may think they see, hear or feel things that are not really there. Some people with schizophrenia think they can do things, or make others do things, that they really cannot do. They can also become afraid about what others may think or do to them. These experiences can be confusing and scary, and the person can act and talk in very unusual ways. Schizophrenia can also mean a person has trouble communicating, feels down, and is not able to do the things they normally do.


A Psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has obtained additional qualifications to become a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and emotional problems. Psychiatrists are trained both to recognise and treat the effects of emotional disturbances on the body as a whole, as well as the effects of physical conditions on the mind. This is particularly important, as many emotional disturbances affect various parts of the body and physical illnesses can certainly affect the mind. A psychiatrist’s medical and psychiatric training allows both the physical and emotional to be kept in perspective.


A Psychologist is a professional person who has trained at university for between 4-6 years. They are qualified to provide support to people who may be experiencing problems with any aspect of their life, including school, family, and friends. Psychologists 

can assist by giving people skills so they can manage their problems and be happier with all aspects of their life.


A Mental Health Nurse is especially trained to care for people who suffer from mental illness. Sometimes they train first to look after people with physical illnesses. Then they do more study so they can have the special training to look after people who suffer from Mental illness. 

This glossary is an excerpt from The Coloured Kit, a support kit for young people of parents with a mental health issue / comorbidity and their families. It was developed by the Youth Coalition of the ACT in partnership with the Children of Parents with a Mental Illness Project. The Coloured Kit can be accessed at

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