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Mental illness: first steps to get help


Almost 1 in 4 people will have some experience of mental
llness in their life.

But mental illness is treatable and there are lots
of ways to get help.

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, start here.



If it’s urgent

If you think someone could hurt themselves or others, get urgent help.

Call emergency services

Dial triple zero (000) in Australia or triple one (111) in New Zealand.

Call Lifeline

Dial 13 11 14 in Australia or 0800 543 354 in New Zealand.

Go to a hospital emergency department

At the emergency department, you will be seen first by an emergency doctor. Then, if needed, you will talk to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.

Find a mental health crisis team

Mental health crisis teams (sometimes called crisis and assessment teams or CAT teams) provide urgent treatment and support for people in mental health crisis. Treatment is often in your home.

In Australia, call your closest major hospital or local council to access the mental health crisis team in your area.

If it’s not urgent

Do you feel that something is not right? Are you:

  • feeling anxious
  • feeling sad or depressed
  • feeling very irritable
  • not wanting to see other people
  • sleeping a lot more or less
  • eating a lot more or less
  • using alcohol or drugs to cope
  • having angry or emotional outbursts

You could just be having a bad week. But if your symptoms are severe, or if they go on for a long time you should seek help.

If you are:

  • hurting yourself on purpose
  • behaving in a very different or unusual way
  • seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations)

These are more serious symptoms. You should get help right away.

Start talking

Talking about what's bothering you is a good way to start dealing with a mental health issue.

Find a trusted family or whānau member, friend or health professional who will take time to listen to you.

See your GP (family doctor)

Seeing a GP is a good first step if you’re worried. A GP can help you work out what's happening and how to deal with it.

It can be difficult to bring up mental health issues at an appointment, but remember you’re not alone. In fact, depression is one of the most common illnesses GPs treat.

If needed, a GP can refer you on for further treatment by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Try counselling services

Speak to a counsellor – over the telephone, online or in person. There are free 24-hour services available. You will speak to someone who understands what you're going through.



Lifeline                                    13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service        1300 65 94 67

Men’s Line                              1300 78 99 78

Kids Helpline                           1800 55 1800

Drug and Alcohol Counselling   1800 888 236


New Zealand

Lifeline NZ                      0800 543 354

Depression Helpline         0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline     0508 828 865  (0508 TAUTOKO)

Alcohol Drug Helpline       0800 787 797  



Online services and supports

There are a range of websites that provide information, advice and links to support groups if you are experiencing a mental health issue.


✔  Get help. Mental illness is treatable.

✔  There are many ways to get help.

✔  If you are unsure, start by finding someone you trust to talk to.


. Download this information as a PDF [100kb]