Half of Aussies with a mental illness face discrimination from loved ones

Three in four Australians with a complex mental illness have withdrawn from relationships with loved ones due to discrimination, according to the Our Turn to Speak survey. Source: Getty

Do you know someone living with complex mental health issues? Perhaps you’re doing so yourself – almost 700,000 Australians are.

If you or a loved one have mental health issues that seriously impact the way you live everyday life, it’s common to feel like you’re battling with them alone. It might be because the people around you aren’t comfortable talking about mental health, or because you’re scared that even friends and family won’t understand your experiences.

Sadly, data collected in the first phase of the Our Turn to Speak survey– the biggest survey yet on the way Australians live with severe and complex mental health issues – show that almost half of the 1,000 people who responded has experienced discrimination at the hands of their own family and friends.

The stigma attached to their mental illness caused 84 percent of respondents to give up trying to make or keep friends and 77 percent to withdraw from relationships with family members.

Stefani Caminiti, the founder and CEO of the Inner Ninja Foundation, a mental wellness charity, says that feeling rejected by loved ones was particularly painful for people with a mental illness.

“Family and friends can be the hardest stigma to deal with,” Caminiti, who founded Inner Ninja to use her own experience of depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder to help others. “There’s a level of acceptance with your workplace not being informed but with your loved ones, you expect them to know more or know better. It hurts the most that they don’t accept you for you.

“When you’re being transparent and telling your family how you truly feel and you’re faced with stigma, it makes you feel like you’re not good enough.”

Tell your story of complex mental illness

The Our Turn to Speak survey remains underway, with the aim of securing a further 1,000 responses by the end of March, and Michelle Blanchard, the deputy CEO of mental health charity Sane and one of the experts behind the survey, is keen to hear from more people who may have experienced this type of discrimination in their close relationships.

“This is the first national Australian data that demonstrates this issue and we’re interested to see whether the interim findings are supported across the next wave of the survey,” Dr Blanchard says.

The experts particularly need more men aged 55-plus to take part in the online survey, to ensure the views of their demographic are fairly represented. The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete, either online or by phone, and participants are eligible to receive $25 in payment for their time.

You can find out more about Our Turn to Speak, including who is eligible for the survey and how to take the survey, here.

If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, there are a number of organisations you can contact for support. These include Lifeline‘s 24-hour crisis line on 13 11 14 and MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78. If you’re a carer for a person with a mental illness and need support, contact Carers Australia on 1800 242 636. SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263 can provide information on mental illness and where to access treatment and support.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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