Each year, approximately one out of every 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. One out of five!…that’s 4.626 Million people! The mental illness statistics indicate that if mental illness were a plague, we would be in quarantine and a state of emergency would be called!
Mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia, and approximately 14% of Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder in any 12-month period with women being more likely to actually seek help for anxiety and mood disorders. A national survey showed that 35% of people with a mental disorder had used a health service and 29% consulted a GP within the 12 months prior to the survey.
About 3% of our population are affected by psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, where they have a loss of contact with reality during episodes. Approximately 5% of Australians will experience substance disorders in any 12-month period, with men being more than twice as likely as women to suffer from substance abuse disorders.
The good news is that the prevalence of mental illness decreases with age. However, this means that the greatest prevalence is amongst our young men and women of between 18 and 24.
Even with statistics like these, there is still a mental illness stigma in Australia. Many people don’t know how to deal with friends and family who have a mental illness, and there is a large proportion of the community who, for lack of understanding, are afraid of those suffering from mental illness. Contrary to community perceptions, many violent people have no actual history of mental disorder, and 90% of those people with a mental illness have no history of violence. In order to change the mental illness stigma, it is important for mental illness statistics such as these to be shared and talked about.
There can be stigma or distress associated with having a family member or friend with a mental illness. In some situations, this may lead to feelings of guilt, anger or shame. One of the first steps in dealing with this mental illness stigma is to acknowledge these feelings and realize that neither you nor the person with the mental illness are to blame for it.
There are things that you can do to support people with a mental illness in order to break down the mental illness stigma.
1. Develop a positive attitude:
This will help you to provide support and encouragement for your friend or family member. It will be useful for you to find out as much as you can about their mental illness through researching what treatment is available, what services are in your area, whether there are education or training courses for you to attend and to be gentle. Recognise and accept that the persons symptoms may come and go, they may be affected by emotion, times of the year or other triggers, and acknowledge that they may require different levels of support at different times.
2. Develop a day-to-day plan:
Day to day structure and routine play an important role in the life of a person who is affected by mental illness. You can encourage and assist the person to develop and implement that routine including: regular times to get up, eat or shower. Introduce gradual changes and break tasks into small steps. Try to encourage and include the person in activities and allow them to make decisions (even if they are a little indecisive). Try to resist getting upset or impatient with them.
3. Discuss strategies:
Try to discuss and implement coping strategies with the person and their health care team to deal with behaviours, voices and methods or distracting them from negative thoughts and behaviours. Aggressive or violent behaviours can be associated with psychotic symptoms or alcohol or drug abuse. It is important to involve the health professionals promptly in these situations and try to develop an atmosphere of calm.
Overall, it’s important to remember that the mental health statistics indicate that one in five of us will be affected by mental health at some time in our lives. Mental health stigma exists, but only through lack of understanding. It’s really important for us not to judge those who are suffering with mental illnesses, and to always be gentle, not only with those with a mental illness. In fact, many of us are fighting a battle, so be gentle, ALWAYS!
For more information about mental health statistics, visit: http://www.aihw.gov.au/mental-health/