Mental Health and Addiction

Mental health is not just about the mind but also about a person’s social and emotional wellbeing. It includes a person’s connection to land, to culture, spirituality, family, and community. When these connections are lost or put under stress it affects people’s mental and physical health. Some people may turn to alcohol and other drugs to make them feel better when they feel stressed. Over time, people may start using alcohol and drugs a lot to cope with emotional distress which can result in addiction (dependence).


Alcohol can have many different effects on people’s mental health.


Watch the Menzies School of Health Research’s The grog brain story animation to hear about how drinking alcohol can affect mental health and wellbeing.

There are things that can help to reduce alcohol use and improve people’s social and emotional wellbeing. These include improving young people’s involvement at school and increasing their self-esteem, and having good relationships with family and being connected to culture. You can do these things in many ways, including playing sports, working, studying, and doing cultural activities [34063].


Ice affects people differently and may cause more problems for some people than others, especially if they have a history of mental health conditions. Read about the effects of ice on mental health here.

Recovery from ice use is possible. Strong connection to country and community can help to reduce ice use [37676]. Watch these videos from Onemba Koori Health and listen to stories of people who have healed from ice use. Check out these videos from Cracks in the Ice about what ice is, the person behind the substance and what you can do if someone you care about is using ice.


Using cannabis (gunja, yarndi) can affect people’s mental health in different ways. Using cannabis may trigger mental health conditions in some people, especially if they have a family history. Cannabis can cause people to be more tired and less motivated to do things, which may lead to isolation from friends, family and community [35968]. Read more about the effects cannabis can have on mental health in our Facts about gunja factsheet.


Until recently people thought that smoking cigarettes did not have much of an effect on mental health. Some people even thought that smoking could help control feeling worried all the time (anxiety). We now know that tobacco use can make anxiety worse and can make some medicines not work as well, including some medicines that are used for stress and anxiety [40465][40467].

It is never too late for people to give up smoking. Giving up smoking is good for mental health and wellbeing. Quitting has been found to improve people’s mood and reduce depression, anxiety, and stress compared to if people keep smoking [40466]. The Aboriginal Quitline has more information to assist with helping people to quit.

Where to go for help

If you or your community need urgent help for mental health or alcohol and other drugs find help here.

See our listing of services to find culturally secure alcohol and drug treatment services near you.

More information

See Key resources on this page for more information on resources, programs and organisations that address alcohol and drug use and mental health.


Key resources



Families coming together by Melanie Robinson

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