Mental health and illness

Mental, behavioural or neurodevelopmental disorders come under the same classification internationally.  Some common ones are:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Maternal mental health disorders
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia
  • Psychoactive substance use disorders


Other neurological conditions, like dementia and brain injury, can also cause mental and behavioural disorders.  All of these conditions are complex and quite poorly understood, with some treatments working for certain people but not for others.  There are often genetic and environmental risk factors involved which alter the way the brain responds to chemicals (neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin).  Researchers are working hard at improving our understanding of these disorders, and the interaction between genetics, environment and the brain, to improve outcomes for those affected.

The ideal intervention is prevention.  There are several treatable conditions that can cause mental, behavioural or neurodevelopmental disorders, such as a lack of oxygen at birth, head injuries, viruses and inflammation.  There is a lot of research focussing on detecting and effectively treating these types of conditions, with the aim of preventing neurological conditions from developing.

Other areas of focus for New Zealand research include improving drug delivery so that medications for mental illness can be more effective and produce fewer side effects, and non-invasive treatments such as deep brain stimulation.

Further information on mental health and illness, including where to get help, can be found on the Ministry of Health website here.

Below are some links to research groups in New Zealand.  They often welcome mental health service users to be involved in their research studies:

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