Improving the Stigma Around Mental Health
Why is there a stigma around mental health
Over one million people in Australia suffer from depression and more than two million are experiencing anxiety. On average, eight people take their lives every day in Australia. As a result, mental health has become one of the most advocated areas of healthcare in Australia, and rightly so with so many of us being affected. One area that is often overlooked is how mental health is impacting the workplace as well as how colleagues can support each other in difficult times. It is great to see that there are now programs in place to help educate employees and managers about how to recognise mental health and how to support those who are struggling. There is often a stigma around speaking about mental health and peoples wellbeing. These stigmas exist due to a lack of understanding around mental health and have led to people developing negative mindsets towards it which have been reinforced by inaccurate stereotypes in the media.
If the media connects mental illness with violence or abuse, it perpetuates the idea that all people suffering from mental illnesses are violent. In reality, evidence suggests that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of abuse.
“People are still scared to talk about their experiences, there is shame associated with it, how others might judge them. There’s still some stigma around things like it not being a real illness or a real condition. How we change and address that is to continue having open and honest conversations about what is a mental illness, how to access services and what it looks like to recover from mental illness, what those symptoms are.”
Nino Di Pasquale – Director of Nursing at Barwon Health
How you can help improve the stigma around mental health/ Charities working in this space
To help address this issue and inform the public, many charities have established themselves to improve the stigma around mental health and encourage people to have more open and honest conversations about the topic. Some of the most prominent charities in this space include BeyondBlue, R U OK?, Black Dog Institute, ReachOut and Headspace.
Everyone has a role to play in establishing a mentally healthy community. With the fallout of COVID in 2020, the Commonwealth Government invested $74 million mental health package. Helping bring awareness and providing a greater focus and conversation on mental health and wellbeing. Beyond Blue received $10 million for a dedicated national mental health support service related to the coronavirus outbreak. The new COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service, from Beyond Blue, offers free information, counselling and referrals online and by phone. And provides options ranging from coping and wellbeing advice to digital self-help tools and counselling by mental health professionals for all Australians around the clock.
What we can do to have more open and honest conversations
There is a lot that can be done to help improve the stigma.
“R U OK Day and Mental Health … need to be celebrated not only during these times but beyond those times, we all need to model that behaviour…. We have a moral responsibility to talk about our own inner world and to help others feel that they were part of it and to have permission to talk about their inner world without the threat.”
Michael Kyrios – Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work at Flinders University
Everyone has a role to play in creating a mentally healthy community – one that is inclusive and opposes discrimination and promotes rehabilitation. Some of the ways you can help include³:
- Learn the facts about mental health
- Treat all people with respect and dignity
- Don’t discriminate
- Share your own experiences with others
“The media have a great role in this. I think one footy player talking about mental illness is worth about one hundred professors like me. It resonates with the community and particularly in trying to get out to young men. Rock stars and insta-famous people talking about mental health, it’s much more part of the conversation. We’re getting there on stigma, but there’s still a way to go.”
Grant Blashki – Clinical Lead and Beyond Blue
Resources and Support
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health, here are some organisations that may be able to help:
Beyond Blue Support Service
Provide information and referrals to relevant services for depression and anxiety-related matters.
Black Dog Institute
The Black Dog Institute is a world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.
ReachOut.com is an Australian online youth mental health service. With a mission to help young people lead happier lives.
Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation. Helping young adults who are having or going through a tough time.
- Healthdirect. (2021). Mental health stigma. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-stigma
- Beyond Blue. (2021). BeyondBlue. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/media-releases/media-releases/beyond-blue-welcomes-funding-for-new-covid-19-support-service
- Stigma, discrimination and mental illness | betterhealth.vic.gov.au. (2021). Better Health. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/stigma-discrimination-and-mental-illness