Startling new research has revealed the shocking role that “stigma” plays in preventing young Australians seeking help for mental health issues.
New research conducted by headspace in partnership with Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health reveals that 52 percent of young Australians with mental health problems are too embarrassed to discuss the problem and 49 percent were afraid of what others would think. Every year, a quarter of all young people will experience mental health issues and 1 in 4 of those will not seek the help that they need.
The research also revealed that a quarter (26%) of young people aged 12 – 25 would not tell anyone about a personal mental health issue and 22 percent would be unlikely or very unlikely to discuss it with their family doctor.
According to headspace CEO Chris Tanti stigma plays a major role in stopping Australian youth from seeking help for mental health issues. “Stigma can make it harder to ask for help and get support for mental health issues out of fear of being judged,” Mr Tanti said.
“The research shows that over half of young people who identified having a mental health problem in the last 12 months were embarrassed to discuss the problem with anyone and nearly half were afraid of what others would think.”
For headspace youth advocate Charlie Cooper, 21, fear of how his loved ones would perceive him initially stopped him from seeking life-changing help. “I struggled with anxiety for over a year before I spoke up. I worried about whether my family and friends would see me as ‘soft’, ‘incapable’ or ‘crazy’,” Charlie said.
“As soon as I spoke up, I realised it was all around me. Many of my closest friends were struggling with similar issues. It seems ridiculous now, but we really were struggling together in silence. As soon as I found the right help, my life improved dramatically, and it continues to do so every day.”
headspace chief medical officer Natalie Gray said that spending time and getting to know people impacted by mental health issues, hearing their stories and understanding their experiences helps to change negative attitudes, reduce fear and social distance. “The other is education – providing information and knowledge about mental health issues and the benefits of seeking help and seeking help early,” she said.
To combat the stigma associated with mental health, headspace is launching The Big Stigma campaign, encouraging people to talk openly and seek help for mental health issues and to tear down the stigma associated with mental illness.
headspace has built The Big Stigma, a life size representation of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. It will be positioned in Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station from Monday 6th – 10th June. headspace is inviting the public to visit and to remove an information panel, which in turn reduces the size of the stigma. As the week progresses and more people get involved and remove panels the stigma becomes smaller.
The Big Stigma digital hub (www.thebigstigma.com.au) will provide a virtual stigma for people to tear down and share to social channels. This reaches out to people across Australia online with links to resources and tools for friends and family seeking to support youth with mental health issues.
By visiting The Big Stigma online or in person, Australians will be tearing down the Big Stigma surrounding mental illness and keeping the conversation about youth mental health alive.
Political leaders, mental health professionals, sportspeople, musicians and celebrities have committed to help tear down the Big Stigma. headspace expect Stand-up Comedian Dave Hughes, Rapper Dylan Joel, Singer-songwriter Kate Foxx, DJ Rodjar, Hannah from Little May and Fox FM’s Trav Roebuck who is the Facebook Live Host for the event.