A new study from mental health charity, SANE Australia, reports that stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness is widespread, harmful to recovery, and is a major barrier to participation in society for those affected.
The new report – A Life without Stigma – concludes that a national strategy to tackle stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness is vital, and should be a non-negotiable component of mental health policies and plans.
‘Stigma is a major issue for people affected by mental illness, influencing how they are viewed and how they view themselves’ says Jack Heath, CEO of SANE Australia. ‘It is destructive, hurtful, and excluding. If we are to help people with mental illness lead a contributing life, it is essential that we take action against stigma.’
A Life without Stigma points out that while significant progress has been made to reduce the stigma associated with depression, Australia urgently needs a national, long-term strategy to reduce the stigma associated with schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses.
The report’s recommendations stress that the strategy must be:
- comprehensive, targeted, long-term, and robustly funded
- inclusive of people living with mental illness and family carers
- based on evidence of good practice, and evaluated
- complementary to existing stigma reduction strategies for depression and anxiety, as well as the Mindframe strategy to reduce stigma in the media
- consistent with the mental health plans of national and state governments, as well as the National Mental Health Commission.
SANE Australia is calling on the major political parties to commit to a national, long-term strategy and campaign to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, with a particular focus on psychotic illness. SANE has written to the Minister for Mental Health, Jacinta Collins as well as the mental health spokespeople for the Coalition and the Greens party, asking them to make stigma reduction a priority for the next government.
‘Mental illness is common. With one in five of us affected every year, reducing stigma across all diagnoses is an important issue for everyone’ says Jack Heath. ‘SANE Australia calls on each party to review the report and make stigma reduction for mental illness a commitment in the upcoming Federal election.’
Report: A life without Stigma, funded by the Department of Health and Ageing