General News Stigma Reduction — 25 March 2014

Discriminating attitudes towards people with a mental illness have decreased  over the past decade, but many Australians still believe people with depression  are dangerous, ”weak-willed” and have themselves to blame for their  condition.

Beyondblue’s depression monitor, a survey of about 3000 Australians conducted  every two to three years, has found that while awareness campaigns seem to be  reducing stigma, a significant number of Australians do not understand  depression and anxiety.

The most recent survey, from 2012, showed one in four respondents thought  people with severe depression were a danger to others and that they ”should  pull themselves together”, and about one in 10 said people with severe  depression had themselves to blame or were ”weak-willed”.bigstockphoto_Sad_Woman_552129[1]

While most Australians say they or someone they know has experienced  depression at some point in their life, only one-third of respondents said they  would be willing to have someone with depression marry into their family.

While all of these results were an improvement from the 2004 survey,  beyondblue chief executive Kate Carnell said they showed more work needed to be  done to educate Australians about mental illness.

”Huge inroads have already been made, but it is alarming that one in four  people still think people with depression are dangerous to others. This feeds  into discriminatory attitudes and the stigma associated with depression, which  often stops people getting the help they need,”  she said.

More than 2 million Australians have a form of anxiety and about 1 million  people are living with depression.

Ms Carnell said that after the successful ”Man Therapy” campaign,  beyondblue would  target workplaces as stress claims were costing billions of  dollars a year.

She said despite many successful people being at high risk of depression and  anxiety, many businesses did not have a culture that encouraged people to get  help.

”We need people to be able to put up their hand early and say I’m  struggling. We don’t want them to wait until they’ve crashed and burned,” she  said.

Andre Obradovic, 48, said he was glad he sought help soon after being hit  with depression and anxiety ”out of the blue” about a year ago.

After working in various executive roles and high-risk jobs,  Mr Obradovic  said he found himself struggling with insomnia and stress.

”Fortunately, I had the insight to realise I was not well. I didn’t sit  there and say ‘I need to pull myself together.’ I went and saw my GP, who I’d  known for 14 years, and I was referred to a psychologist for help and built a  get-well plan.”

Mr Obradovic   said he hoped more people would see depression for the  indiscriminate illness  it is.

”The more people talk to their friends and family about it, the more people  will realise that this is just like any physical illness … you need to go to a  doctor, just like you would if you had a broken arm.”

This article first appeared on SMH on 24 March, 2014.



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