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People with difficult mental health conditions face tremendous stigma and discrimination which affects their connection to community, their physical health and emotional wellbeing. The stigma of things like psychotic episodes can make it hard to find and stay in housing or to hold a job.
SANE Australia is researching the issue and wants to survey 7,000 Australians living with complex mental illness who have suffered the effects of being stigmatised because of their condition. As Hannah, who lives with with a complex mental illness says in the SANE video below “Psychotic episodes are scary – people with psychosis aren’t”
First research into stigma
The research by SANE Australia in partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation will examine for the first time how Australians living with complex mental illness experience stigma and discrimination across a range of areas including housing, education, employment and health services to help drive positive change. The aim is to create a National Stigma Report Card.
Complex Mental Illness
More than 690,000 Australians live with complex mental illnesses, such as psychotic illnesses, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, as well as severe and persistent depression and anxiety. People living with complex mental illness can experience a range of poorer health and social outcomes which can be driven by stigma and discrimination from the broader community.
A National Stigma Report Card will be created from a comprehensive survey of 7000 Australians living with complex mental illness about their experiences of stigma and discrimination. This is the largest survey of its kind conducted in Australia to date. The Report Card will provide a baseline by which changes in stigma and discrimination can be assessed over time at a national, state and regional level.
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Hannah is one of the stories on the SANE Australia website. She lives with a complex mental illnesses. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 18 says of herself, “I’m living proof that you can keep going and live a full life.”
“There’s just not enough understanding, and so much stigmatisation surrounding this illness. People get all their ideas from horror movies. They can be really flippant, calling people ‘psycho’ or ‘schizo’. It’s a pretty scary illness , but it doesn’t make the people who have it scary people. We’re human, just like everyone else. We all want the same things.”
“I still experience psychosis, but I can manage it a lot better than I used to be able to. I understand what it is now and why it’s happening. I’ve learnt ways to help manage it, and I know how important it is to talk to people about what I’m dealing with, rather than keeping it all to myself.”
“I’m so passionate about sharing my story now, because if people understand what Schizophrenia is, it will make it easier for people to get help early. I want my story to show others that it’s not the end of your life if you’re diagnosed with schizophrenia.” Watch Hannah tell her story in the video below.
Stigma impacts care, jobs, housing, justice
SANE Australia Chief Executive Officer Jack Heath says stigma and discrimination continue to limit access to care, housing, justice and employment for people living with complex mental illness and it’s critical we address this.
“This project will help us find out more about where the issues for people living with complex mental illness lie and the results will be used as a catalyst for change in a range of areas,” Mr Heath said.
“We’ll bring together people with lived experience of complex mental illness and those working in the mental health sector and academia to establish more funding, policy initiatives and programs that will improve the mental health and wellbeing of people living with complex mental illness.”
Long term change
The project builds on SANE Australia’s leadership role in the reduction of stigma and discrimination stretching back to the organisation’s founding more than 30 years ago.
“Through our partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation we are looking to drive long-term change in policy and practice so that Australians living with complex mental illness can live long and fulfilling lives, free of stigma and discrimination,” Mr Heath said.
“Now more than ever people are seeking help for diagnoses such as depression and anxiety, but Australians living with complex mental health conditions still experience unacceptable levels of stigma and discrimination, as well as poorer health and social and economic outcomes such as poverty, homelessness and unemployment.”
Impact on quality of life
Paul Ramsay Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Simon Freeman, believes the National Stigma Report Card is vital for addressing the significant gaps in understanding that exist for this vulnerable group.
“Australians living with severe mental illness often experience significant disadvantage and marginalisation. It’s important we understand how stigma and discrimination impacts on their quality of life and how we might go about changing this,” Mr Freeman said.
“We have formed this partnership with SANE because we believe their expertise and passion will enable the collection of much-needed data and also drive the use of this evidence to achieve significant improvements to the lives of these individuals and their families.”
Anne Deveson Research Centre
The National Stigma Report Card is the flagship project of the Anne Deveson Research Centre which is being established by SANE Australia to drive change for Australians living with complex mental illness, their family, friends and colleagues.
The Anne Deveson Research Centre will officially launch in October 2018 and will be led by SANE Australia Deputy Chief Executive Officer Dr Michelle Blanchard. The Anne Deveson Research Centre will honour the ground-breaking contribution of SANE Australia co-founder, respected journalist, the late Anne Deveson AO, a pioneer in mental health. Following the diagnosis of her son she led the development of Australia’s first media campaigns to reduce stigma for people living with schizophrenia. Her passionate advocacy opened up the national public conversation about mental illness in Australia.
About SANE Australia
SANE Australia is a national mental health charity working to support four million Australians affected by complex mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, severe and enduring mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Our work includes online peer support and information, stigma reduction, a specialist helpline service, research and advocacy.
About the Paul Ramsay Foundation
The Paul Ramsay Foundation is committed to improving health and education outcomes for the entire Australian population, with a particular focus on some of our most disadvantaged communities. With an emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration, we invest in the development and implementation of practical solutions that empower communities and result in long-term, systemic change. We work as a catalyst for change, seeking out and partnering with the brightest minds to unlock evidence, build momentum and maximise impact. For more information about the work of the Foundation, visit the website.
For information, support and guidance from mental health professionals contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or firstname.lastname@example.org from 10am-10pm weekdays AEST.
If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, contact the following 24/7 crisis support services: Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, Mensline on 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
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