Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Queensland Takes Mental Health Lead in Australia

Going so far as to call mental health stigma a "profound human rights issue," the premier of the Australian state of Queensland has announced a four-year, $8.5 million campaign to make people more aware of "the effect their attitudes can have on those with mental illness."

According to a report carried by 9News, Premier Anna Blig made the announcement after participating with about 150 other people in a march through Brisbane, the state capital.

"The campaign, Change Our Minds, is about encouraging every one of us to accept and value people regardless of their mental illness," she said, noting Australia was alone among English-speaking OECD countries in not having a national campaign aimed at ending stigma linked to mental illness.

"In the coming weeks," says the 9News report, "Queenslanders will be bombarded by television and newspaper advertisements that urge people to think about the effect their attitudes can have on those with a mental illness." 

Blig explained why stigma is a problem: 

"Too often people feel that they can't tell people that they have a mental illness.
"We need to encourage people to be open about it and to seek treatment. It's much harder to do that if they feel they will be treated poorly.
She's absolutely right. Stigma is a problem. It most often results from lack of understanding and knowledge, and is reinforced by the feeling many people have of not knowing how to act around people who have mental health issues.
But as I noted in yesterday's post World Mental Health Day: Speaking Truth to Power, there is another stigma related problem. The problem: although psychological trauma is present in the history of many, if not most, people with serious mental illness that fact is not reflected the vast majority of the time in how psychiatrists assess, diagnose, treat, and monitor patients. These patients often do not get the help they need and, rather than improve, their conditions worsen, thus leaving them open to greater stigma from the public.
I hope that the Queensland government has taken this problem into account. We need to realize that while public stigma about mental health is a major problem, the avoidance of psychological trauma may be an even greater problem.

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