Mental illness can be treated. When someone first starts to develop symptoms of mental illness, it is important to contact a doctor or a community mental health service for help.

The correct treatment can help a person’s condition to improve or help a person to live well, despite the presence of some ongoing symptoms. Psychological treatments are often the most helpful for people affected by anxiety disorders or depression, while medications are mainly helpful for people more severely affected by mental illness.

Medical Treatments For Depression

The main medical treatment for depression is antidepressant medication. There's a lot of misinformation about antidepressant medication and while there is no simple explanation as to how it works, it can be very useful in the treatment of moderate to severe depression and some anxiety disorders.

If you're experiencing moderate to severe depression your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medication, along with psychological treatments. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed when other treatments have not been successful or when psychological treatments aren't possible due to the severity of the condition or a lack of access to the treatment.


Some types of antidepressant medication can help people to manage anxiety, even if they are not experiencing symptoms of depression.

Research indicates that when people have an anxiety condition, specific changes occur in their brain's chemicals serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. Antidepressant medication is designed to correct the imbalance of chemical messages between nerve cells (neurones) in the brain. Learn about the different classes of antidepressant medication.


Benzodiazepines (sometimes called minor tranquillisers and sleeping pills) are a class of drug commonly prescribed in the short term to help people cope with anxiety conditions. Benzodiazepines promote relaxation and reduce tension but are not recommended for long-term use as they can reduce alertness, affect coordination, and can be addictive. They may be useful for a short period of time (two or three weeks) or if used intermittently as part of a broad treatment plan, but not as the first or only treatment.


If left untreated, depression and anxiety can go on for months, even years. The good news is that a range of effective treatments are available, as well as things you can do yourself to recover and stay well.

Different treatments work for different people, and it’s best to speak to your general practitioner or mental health professional about your options and preferences. If you’ve taken the first step and talked through some treatment options with a health professional, you might like to try a few of the following ideas for lifestyle changes and social support. Most people find that a combination of things work best.

It's important to remember that recovery can take time, and just as no two people are the same, neither are their recoveries. Be patient and go easy on yourself.

Treatment of severe mental illness

While the line between mental health and serious mental illness is debatable, the most accepted definition is that Severe mental illness are those that “resulted in functional impairment which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” Serious mental illnesses (SMIs) are a small subset of the 300 mental illnesses.

Serious mental illnesses commonly include “schizophrenia-spectrum disorders,” “severe bipolar disorder,” and “severe major depression”. However, when other mental illnesses cause significant functional impairment and substantially limit major life activities they also count as a serious mental illness.

Treatment of severe mental illness.

Antipsychotic medications – are used to treat psychotic illnesses, for example, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Newer antipsychotic medications may have some side effects but tend to have fewer of the effects that were associated with the older medications, such as stiffening and weakening of the muscles and muscle spasms.

Hospitalisation – only occurs when a person is acutely ill and needs intensive treatment for a short time. It is considered better for a person’s mental health to treat them in the community, in familiar surroundings.

Involuntary treatment – can occur when the psychiatrist recommends someone needs treatment, but the person doesn’t agree. People only receive compulsory treatment to prevent serious deterioration in their mental or physical health, or to prevent serious harm to the person or another person.


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