Mental health conditions

Key points about mental health conditions

  • We all experience some ups and downs, sometimes feeling low and other times being happy.
  • A mental health condition occurs when ongoing symptoms cause frequent distress and affect your ability to function.
  • It can influence the way you think, feel, behave and/or relate to others.
  • There's treatment and support to help you with a mental health condition, and things you can do to help yourself get better.
  • This page focuses on mental health conditions that can be formally diagnosed.



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  • If you have ongoing mental distress and your ability to function is affected, you may be diagnosed with a mental health condition.
  • Mental health conditions refer conditions that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. Examples include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorderschizophrenia, eating disorders, PTSD, psychosis, perinatal depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and addictive behaviours.
  • The good news is that there are treatments and support to help you with these conditions, but the sooner you get help the better.
  • There is also plenty you can do to reduce your risk of developing a one of these condition and to help yourself get better if you do develop one.
  • If you are feeling distressed, talk to someone now. Phone or text 1737 anytime, day or night.

If you have mental health condition, you can experience problems in the way you think, feel or behave. This can significantly affect your relationships, work and quality of life. 

Symptoms differ from person to person, but a common sign is if your behaviour changes, suddenly or gradually. These changes can sometimes be a reaction to life events, especially if you are young. Being in a constant state of mental distress can be very damaging, mentally and physically. 

Diagnoses for mental health conditions fall into 2 types: psychosis and mood disorder. The symptoms for each differ.

Psychosis Mood disorder
This includes disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (previously called manic depressive illness), where you lose touch with reality.  This is where you experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, inability to sleep, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, changes in appetite etc. These changes make it difficult to cope with work, study, relationships and other demands. If you feel like this for a month or more, and it gets in the way of daily living, you could be depressed. 
Your ability to make sense of thoughts, feelings and other information is seriously affected. What you see, hear and feel is real to you, but people around you do not share your experiences.  Getting help if you are depressed is important because it often occurs with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or substance abuse disorders, as well as with other health conditions such as diabetes. Early diagnosis and treatment of depression is critical to healthy emotional, social and behavioural development. 
Effective medication and support from professionals mean that most people who experience this type of distress are able to live productive and rewarding lives. Most mood disorders can be effectively treated, usually with a combination of medication and talking therapy. Together these help you understand your mental health condition, manage your symptoms and lead a satisfying life.

With appropriate care, you can recover from a mental health condition. Get help as soon as you realise you have mental distress, before it develops into a diagnosable mental health condition. This will make your journey to recovery easier. But whenever you reach out, you will no longer be managing on your own, and with support your situation will improve. 

One of the most important things that help is compassion and understanding from those around you. A person with a mental health condition often faces isolation and discrimination from others – some people may react with embarrassment, rejection and abuse if they don’t understand why you are acting unusually. Tell your friends, family and whānau what is happening for you – in many cases they will be able to help you.

  • Share your thoughts and feelings with friends, family/whānau or a counsellor.
  • Talking your problems through as soon as they appear can really help relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Get help as soon as you notice any sign of mental distress before it develops into something more serious.
  • Eat nutritious food, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Doing these things can trigger a chain of healing effects – especially when you feel anxious or under stress.
  • Build and maintain your self-esteem. You will feel better more often, enjoy your life more and do more of the things you have always wanted to do.
  • Learn to relax. There are many relaxation techniques and mindfulness methods to chose from. 
  • Spend time doing the things you love to do, such as sport, hobbies, gardening, time in nature or with your whānau.

 Image credit: Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ

If you think you or someone close to you is experiencing any kind of mental distress or a diagnosable mental health condition, there are many places to go to get help. You can start with seeing your GP or primary healthcare nurse, or texting or phoning 1737 for free any time of the day or night.

Find a mental health service within your area.(external link)

There are also lots of self-help resources, like websites and books, right through to seeing a specialist mental health professional or accessing an emergency service. The NZ Mental Health Foundation(external link) has a comprehensive list of mental health support services.

If you have a family member who you are concerned about and would like support, you can contact Supporting Families(external link) – an organisation dedicated to helping families living with mental illness. 

Staying well(external link) Mental Health Foundation, NZ link) 
Aunty Dee(external link) 
SPARX(external link)
The Lowdown (external link) 
CALM – Computer Assisted Learning for the Mind(external link) NZ
Just a Thought(external link) NZ
Mental illness and discrimination(external link) Like Minds, Like Mine
#RadNotBad – stories about people's experience of mental illness(external link) Mental Health Foundation, NZ
Ignite(external link) NZ
Asian Family Services(external link) Free, professional and confidential psychological support to Asian communities. Phone 0800 862342
Find out how to tell if someone is struggling with their mental health(external link) BBC, UK, 2021

Online self-help programmes and courses

Here are some online resources that are designed to help you manage depression and anxiety. Some are free, some have a cost and some require a prescription from your doctor. 


Just a Thought (NZ)

  • Developed by the Wise Group. 
  • A self-guided internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression.
  • Modified for a New Zealand audience.
  • Users can either enrol themselves (self-care method) or have the course prescribed by their healthcare professional (eg, their GP, psychologist or nurse).
  • Healthcare professionals can follow their patient's progress through a clinician dashboard. 
  • Free website.

Small Steps (NZ)(external link)

  • Small Steps are digital tools, developed by Te Hiringa Hauora in partnership with Clearhead.
  • The Small Steps website is a place where people of Aotearoa (and further abroad!) can take small steps on your journey to improve wellbeing.
  • Whether you want to maintain wellness, find relief or get help for yourself, friends or whānau, Small Steps is with you and for you – he waka eke noa.
  • Free website.
  • Start your Small Steps journey(external link)

Beating the Blues (UK)(external link)

  • Developed by the Institute for Psychiatry, Kings College, London
  • 8 weekly online sessions (50 minutes each)
  • Based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, an evidence-based approach recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence in the UK
  • 7 out of 10 people who have used Beating the Blues have been able to overcome their depression.
  • Free for New Zealanders - ask your GP or health centre for a free activation code

This Way Up (Australia)(external link)

  • Developed by the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression, St Vincent’s Hospital and the University of New South Wales
  • There are a range of self-assessment tests and courses such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, OCD, health anxiety, PTSD
  • Based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, most courses consist of 6 multimedia, interactive lessons
  • Courses are available online or through a mobile app
  • Online courses can be clinician supervised or unsupervised and anonymous. 
  • Most courses cost NZD $65 for 3 months' access, but there are a few free short courses too (for mindfulness(external link), coping with stress(external link) and managing insomnia(external link))

Computer-assisted learning for the mind - CALM (NZ)(external link) 

  • Developed by Dr Antonio Fernando at the University of Auckland
  • Website includes a range of sections such as mental resilience, managing stress, and health relationshipos
  • Some sections include audio files with exercises and information you can download, as well as links to relevant websites
  • Free website

Peer Zone(external link)

  • Peer Zone is a series of three-hour peer-led workshops in mental health and addiction where people explore recovery and whole of life wellbeing.

Mental Health 101(external link)

  • This is a 20 minute course by CAMH NZ that provides an overview of mental health.
  • It is for people who are concerned about themselves, those who are concerned about family or friends or those who encounter people with mental health problems through their work.

Youth and Mental Health 101(external link) 

  • 30 minute course CAMH, NZ 
  • A course that provides information about mental health challenges, how to a conversation about mental health with others in your life advice on how to reach out for support.

Moodgym (Australia)(external link)

  • Developed by Professor Kathy Griffiths and the Australian National University
  • Based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • 5 interactive modules to learn and practise skills for preventing and managing depression and anxiety
  • A 1-year subscription to the programme costs about NZD $43

eCouch (Australia)(external link)

  • Developed by Professor Helen Christensen and Professor Kathy Griffiths and the Australian National University
  • Based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Interactive program with modules for depression, generalised anxiety and worry, social anxiety, relationship breakdown, loss and grief
  • Provides information about emotional problems, exercises and strategies for improving them
  • Free



The Royal College of Psychiatrists website (UK) has mental health information translated into multiple languages(external link).
Te Kete Fatigue – relaxation [PDF, 88 KB] Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, 2022
Te Kete Fatigue – deep breathing [PDF, 91 KB] Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, 2022
Have a friend or family member who’s unwell? [PDF, 1.1 MB] Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ and Mediboard, 2023
Helplines and local mental health services(external link) Mental Health Foundation, NZ, 2022


Mental health and wellbeing apps overview


te kete fatigue relaxation

Te Kete Fatigue – relaxation

Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, 2022

Have a friend or family member who’s unwell?

Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ and Mediboard, 2023

helplines brochure

Helplines and local mental health services

Mental Health Foundation, NZ, 2022

Need help now?

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Rudy Bakker, Mental Health & Addiction Coordinator, East Health Trust, Auckland

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