Education key to improving mental health awareness in Australia

Peter Terlato 30 September 2016

Mental Health patient psychologist

Improved "psychological first aid" necessary to identify and assist sufferers.

Almost half of all Australians aren't confident they could spot the symptoms of mental health issues, with the overwhelming majority pointing to better psychological education as the key to improved awareness.

A national survey, conducted by Flourish Australia, found 96% of respondents suggest Australia embraces the World Health Organisation's (WHO) concept of educating about psychological first aid.

Half (50%) of all Australians either have a mental health issue, suspect they have a mental health issue or have had a mental health issue at some stage.

More than three-quarters (76%) know someone who may be experiencing mental health issues or have done in the past, or think they know someone who has or has had a mental health issue.

Over a third (35%) of Aussies living with a mental health issue say they deal with it unassisted, without support from doctors, counsellors or friends.

Suicide and self-inflicted injuries were ranked among the highest causes of death in Australia last year.

Australians in regional areas more likely to suffer mental health conditions than those in metro suburbs.

Last month, a study by James Cook University revealed more than 40% of Australians with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions sidestepped treatment because it's too expensive.

Nearly half the population (45%) said they'd find it tough to distinguish between someone with mental health issues and someone that's just having a bad day. Of those that could tell the difference, more than half (51%) would be reluctant to get involved, preferring people seek professional help.

Somewhat surprisingly, many respondents (64%) said high profile individuals often use mental health issues as an excuse for bad behaviour.

Despite these sentiments, almost nine in ten Australians (88%) feel, as a country, we've become more receptive and understanding of mental health issues over the past five to ten years. Even more people (91%) believe sufferers of mental conditions can lead a normal, meaningful life.

Our comprehensive guide lists insurers that provide coverage for people with mental health issues and explores what's being done to bring mental health up to speed with the rest of the healthcare system.

If you, a family member, friend or colleague need access to 24 hour crisis support, suicide prevention services or other mental health resources, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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