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Defining Mental Illness

Mental illness is defined under the Mental Health Act 2009 (SA) as any illness or disorder of the mind [s 3].

As there is often confusion as to what exactly constitutes a mental illness further clarification is given in Schedule 1 of the Act which spells out what is not mental illness.

A person is not mentally ill merely because of any one or more of the following:

  • political opinion or belief;
  • religious opinion or belief;
  • philosophy;
  • sexual preference or sexual orientation;
  • political activity, religious activity, sexual activity or sexual promiscuity;
  • immoral conduct;
  • developmental disability of mind;
  • taking alcohol or any other drug;
  • anti-social behaviour;
  • economic or social status; or
  • membership of a particular cultural or racial group.

Whilst being temporarily affected by alcohol or drug use does not fall under the definition of mental illness, if a person has sustained serious or permanent physiological, biochemical or psychological impairment as a result of alcohol or drugs then alcohol or drug use can be regarded as an indication that the person is suffering from a mental illness.

Where there is uncertainty as to whether a particular condition is a mental illness, contact a doctor or a Community Mental Health Service. In an emergency contact the Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service (ACIS) on 13 14 65.

Defining Mental Illness  :  Last Revised: Thu Aug 18th 2016
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.