Mental Health is an issue that is quite close to me. Growing up in a family where illness such as schizophrenia is a very big part of my loved ones life, means I understand the complications and stresses it leaves not only on that person but also on that persons loved ones.
Over 250,000 Australians suffer from Schizophrenia and over another million people care for them (ABC online). It is difficult to determine the exact symptoms of schizophrenia as there is not one set of symptoms per person, the disease can vary from case to case. There are even different sub types of schizophrenia and commonly individuals diagnosed with the same subtype of schizophrenia often express very different symptoms to the other.
Mainly Schizophrenia makes distinguishing between what is real and unreal, the ability to think clearly, manage emotions and think logically very difficult.
But these symptoms are not the only thing that people with Schizophrenia and other serious mental health issues have to deal with. People with mental disabilities are sometimes the most disadvantaged members of the community, due to a number of issues including the stigma attached to their illness, the discrimination they experience because of it and the lack of opportunity they face because of these issues.
Statistics show that its not just those suffering long term mental illness in Australia, according to SANE Australia 20% of Australian adults will experience a mental health issue each year. Compared to the frightening figure of the 15% of people that will commit suicide as long-term sufferers of serious mental illnesses it proves it is a serious case for concern in our community.
According to the Mental Health Council of Australia 70% of people suffering from mental health conditions do not seek medical help. This is where social acceptance and support is a big part of the treatment process.
I recently attended a dinner party where a friend told me (without knowing of my family circumstances) “You have to be careful around people with schizophrenia, you don’t know what they are going to do. They could do anything those voices in their heads tell them to do.”
I had to politely correct them and inform them that not everyone with schizophrenia hears voices and that it is a common misconception of the illness to think that. It is also a common misconception to believe that just because a person suffers from Schizophrenia that they are more prone to violence and aggressive behavior, in which research tells us that when a person is medicated for a mental illness they are no more prone to violent or aggressive behavior than the general population.
The uneducated opinions people freely voice on the topics of mental illness are creating the barriers that are limiting people with mental illness to seek the help they deserve. These uneducated opinions are ultimately just opinions that are just a subject of quick judgment with a lack of awareness.
Everyone can participate in mental health awareness everyday. Education is the number one key. In October each year World Mental Health Day is held in recognition of mental health and the affects it has on people all over the world.
There are also a number of community, events, programs and a number of websites that provide numerous amounts of support and information on all forms of mental illness. Some of these sites include: Mental Health Council of Australia, Headspace – A National Youth Mental Health Foundation, Beyond Blue, SANE and The Mental Health Association of NSW .
These websites have information and contacts for anyone suffering from a mental illness, carers of those with a mental illness, loved ones of those with a mental illness or just the general public seeking information on certain types of mental illness.