Research on mental health issues in rural Australia has been insufficient to date to guide nurses' clinical practice. This study explored young adults' experience of living with a mental illness in rural Western Australia using the grounded theory approach. Nine young adults, aged 18-30 years, identified isolation as their main concern. Isolation was brought about by society excluding participants because they had a mental illness and because of their behaviour. This isolation was further increased by the general population's lack of knowledge and understanding of what it is like to live with a mental illness. Based on the findings of this study, measures of how nurses can help reduce these young adults' isolation in a rural area are suggested. (copyright) 2006 Australian and New Zealand College of Mental Health Nurses Inc.