With a new survey on the mental health of Australian adults showing a record number of Australians reporting mental health problems, it’s time to look at the negative aspects of mental illness.
With more than one in five Australians reporting they have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder, the fact that a third of all Australians are now at risk of developing this debilitating condition is a national embarrassment.
Mental health experts say the lack of awareness is also causing a huge gap in the mental wellbeing of Australians.
It is estimated more than 100 million Australians suffer from mental health issues, and there are more than 300,000 Australians currently living with mental health conditions.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says one in three Australians suffer some form of mental disability, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The ABC understands more than 40 per cent of Australians are classified as having mental illness, including depression, and that a further 15 per cent have mental health impairments, including anxiety and psychotic symptoms.
The survey revealed that one in 10 Australians have some form the mental illness of alcohol and drug addiction, and the number of people who have used drugs has increased significantly.
The results show the stigma associated with mental illness has become a real problem, and while more Australians are receiving professional help, it is also a growing problem for those who struggle to get help.
The research also revealed Australians were most likely to have used prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety drugs, mood stabilisers and antipsychotics.
“There is a perception that we’re a very, very safe society, and we should be able to have a safe society,” Dr Peter Widdicombe from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health told the ABC.
Dr Widdick said Australia needed to create more support services for people who were struggling with mental illnesses. “
People who have a mental illness or addiction have a higher rate than the general population and people who are struggling are much more likely to be in treatment.”
Dr Widdick said Australia needed to create more support services for people who were struggling with mental illnesses.
“We need to recognise the fact we have an enormous population of people suffering from mental illness and mental illness is not a new phenomenon, but there are very few services available,” Dr Widicombbe said.
“So it is important to develop and fund services that provide people with support, which we can then use as a stepping stone to get them out of treatment.”
The research was carried out by the National Institute of Mental Health and Mental Retardation Australia (NIMHRA) and the Commonwealth Centre for the Treatment of Mental Illness.
The data collected included the responses of more than 1,200 people in every state and territory in Australia.
It found a large majority of respondents reported they had experienced at least one form of depression, with more than two-thirds reporting anxiety or depression.
While some people reported experiencing anxiety or psychotic symptoms, the majority of people said they were not bothered by these conditions.
However, the study found that almost half of respondents had tried alcohol or drugs, with half reporting a diagnosis of alcohol or drug dependence.
The most common psychiatric diagnoses among Australians were anxiety and depression, while a large proportion of people with schizophrenia reported anxiety and major depressive disorder.
More than one-third of people reported a mental disorder including anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsion, psychotic symptoms and eating disorders.
Some of the findings showed people with mental disorders were more likely than the rest of the population to have struggled with alcohol and drugs, depression, or other psychiatric conditions.
It also found that more than half of people had attempted suicide, and almost a quarter had attempted or attempted suicide more than once.
Dr Widalombe said the survey showed Australians needed to take a step back and recognise the importance of mental wellbeing.
“Our culture has a tendency to be very negative about mental health.
We need to take this into consideration when we do things like the National Mental Health Strategy,” he said.
The new survey was released ahead of Australia Day, which falls on Sunday this month.
It was also launched ahead of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about mental illness to help people stay on track.
The report found more than 90 per cent agreed that mental health was an important part of a healthy lifestyle.