Startling new research has revealed the shocking role that “stigma” plays in preventing young Australians seeking help for mental health issues.
Each year, a quarter of all young people in this country will experience mental health issues, however many of them will not seek the help that they need.
New research, funded by an NHMRC Partnership Grant to the Centre for Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, and in partnership with headspace revealed that 26 per cent of young people aged 12 – 25 would not tell anyone about a personal mental health issue.
Professor Debra Rickwood, a chief investigator on the research from headspace, said it showed that 52 per cent of young people were embarrassed to discuss a mental health problem with anyone and nearly half were afraid of what others would think.
“The results also found that 22 per cent would be unlikely or very unlikely to discuss it with their family doctor,” she said
headspace CEO Chris Tanti said stigma plays a profound and significant 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.
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 stigma, headspace is today launching a vital National Awareness Campaign aimed at informing Australians that the more we talk openly about mental health issues, the easier it becomes for young people to seek help for them.
To kick start the campaign, headspace has constructed a Big Stigma in Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station.
From Monday 6 June – Friday 10 June, when the public visit this eye-catching structure they take a piece of the stigma away – a panel from its outer shell containing information about mental health issues and how to seek help for them.
By doing so, they will tear down the stigma, piece by piece, and keep the conversation about youth mental health alive. The more people visit, the smaller the Big Stigma gets.
The campaign will also be supported by a digital hub, launching on Tuesday 14 June, complete with a virtual stigma to tear down and links to resources and tools for friends and family seeking to support youth with mental health issues: www.thebigstigma.com.au
headspace encourages all Australians to use #thebigstigma in all forms of social media to get the conversation going, and to help tear down #thebigstigma.
- 26 per cent of young people aged 12 – 25 would not tell anyone if they had a mental health problem, and 22 per cent would be unlikely/very unlikely to discuss it with their family doctor.
- 52 per cent of young people aged 12 – 25 that have identified having a mental health problem in the last 12 months would be embarrassed to discuss the problem with anyone, and 49 per cent would be afraid of what others think.
If you are having a tough time contact headspace on 1800 650 890 or www.eheadspace.com.au
headspace operates 94 centres across Australia, for details visit www.headspace.org.au.