Understanding the impact of stigma and discrimination

22 Nov 2018

A new initiative of SANE Australia, the National Stigma Report Card seeks to understand and improve the lives of Australians living with complex mental illness.

Australia has come a long way in being able to talk about mental health. Through the dedicated efforts of a number of mental health organisations, as well as the growth of a passionate community of those with lived experience, we have gained a much greater understanding and acceptance of people experiencing common mental illnesses. This change in community attitudes has helped many to find the courage to say they’re struggling and seek help, and also supported family and friends to have difficult conversations with loved ones they’re worried about.

But while our responses to illnesses like depression and anxiety have improved, we’ve made little headway in our understanding and support for the estimated 690,000 Australians who live with more severe forms of mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar, personality, eating disorders and complex mood and anxiety disorders.

People experiencing severe mental illness represent some of the most vulnerable members of our community, often forced to the margins of our society with limited opportunities for employment and education. All too frequently, social isolation, homelessness and declining physical health will exacerbate poor mental health and continue the cycle of disadvantage. Despite attempts at alleviating these issues, it is apparent that our lack of understanding, and the stigma and discrimination that results, is limiting our ability to improve the situation for both individuals and their carers

We need a better understanding of those living with complex and severe mental illness. In particular we need a better understanding of them as individuals – their experiences, needs and aspirations – as a necessary step to identifying a more appropriate and inclusive response. This is why we have chosen to partner with SANE Australia and support the National Stigma Report Card – the flagship program of the new SANE Anne Deveson Research Centre.

The National Stigma Report Card program will work directly with the community to collect much needed evidence on key issues. This important knowledge will then be used to drive systemic change through the development of improved policy, enhanced support and better understanding.

We are extremely proud to be associated with this ambitious national initiative, and hope that the improvements that come from gaining this better understanding will help Australians with complex mental illness to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Find out more about the National Stigma Report Card at https://www.sane.org/adrc/current-adrc-projects/national-stigma-report-card

Brian Graetz – General Manager, Health