Stigma Reduction — 06 June 2016

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As alarming new research reveals 52 percent of young people were too embarrassed to seek help in the last year for mental health issues, not-for-profit youth organisation Headspace has unveiled a new national awareness campaign.

The campaign, unveiled at Melbourne’s Southern Cross station today, invites people to tear off one of the 3,500 pieces that make up the dome-shaped structure, representing the embarrassment and reluctance to speak about mental health.

Stigma is a significant deterrent to young people seeking assistance, as three out of four people fail to get the help and advice they need.

Charlie Cooper, a  21-year-old Headspace Youth National Reference advocate, said the initiative will help other youth like himself who have grappled with mental health.

“I struggled for about a year on my own, and didn’t tell anyone,” Mr Cooper said.

“Until I found the right help – which took about six months – things didn’t really turn around.

“I found that as soon as I started speaking up about my experience, so many of my mates were struggling with similar issues and I began to feel better.

“We need to show young people that it is courageous to speak up rather than a sign of weakness, which people really feel.”

Each piece of the structure holds a helpful piece of advice, and will be at the CBD train station from today until June 10.

It will be supported by a digital hub, available nationally, with links and resources.

Dr Natalie Gray, the chief medical officer at Headspace, said it is important to break down the barriers of people seeking help.

“About a quarter are too embarrassed to even tell their family doctor –  we want to open up the conversation so people are comfortable talking about mental health,” Dr Gray said.

“If anyone feels not quite right in themselves, and you can’t even explain it, it’s so important to have a talk to somebody.

“Many young people that are experiencing these issues, they feel so alone. What they don’t realise is so many young people are experiencing the same thing, and telling someone and realising there are treatments out there can be such a huge relief.”

Three out of four people who experience a mental health issue throughout their lives do so before they turn 24.

Radio and TV personality Dave Hughes is a supporter of the campaign, after experiencing mental health issues of his own when he was young.

“Let’s get rid of the stigma, just talk to people,” he urged.

“If you’ve got a problem, you’re not alone.”

The launch was also attended by Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.

The research was 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 in partnership with Headspace.

This article first appeared on ‘9 News’ on 6 June 2016.

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