Removing stigma starts with community

Tasmania needs more psychologists, more psychiatrists, more hospital beds and improved treatment for adolescents experiencing mental health issues.

We need additional funding to meet demand. We also need additional funding to assist with preventative care.

Governments could spend hundreds of millions of dollars, but it wouldn’t solve all our woes in relation to mental health.

The only way mental health outcomes will be improved is at a community level. It’s the grassroots initiatives and conversations that will ensure the removal of the stigma surrounding mental health.

One in five people will experience mental health issues in a 12 month period.  One in two people will experience this in a life time. The other person will know someone affected by poor mental health.

According to Mindframe, mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia. It accounts for about 27 per cent of the total years lost due to disability. During a survey period, Mindframe reports that 35 per cent of people with a mental disorder had used a health service. Also, women were more likely than men to use services.

If the majority of the population will experience mental health issues at some point in their life, why are people still dying or failing to seek help? Why aren’t we talking about it freely in our community? Why are we scared to share our experiences with anxiety or depression, despite knowing others have or are feeling something similar?

For two weeks Rotary Tasmania will travel around the state to bring these conversations to communities. The free forums will include guest speakers – some will tell personal stories, others are health professionals and support and information will be available. The message from the forums is to talk about mental health – the feelings and experiences associated with mental health can be very similar. Yet, we don’t always share these feelings and in turn help others.

As a community we can create change simply by connecting with people and talking. The more we share without feelings of shame attached, the more likely we will be to continue to reduce the stigma.

The Muster 4 Mental Health started at Deloraine on Februrary 4 and will finish at Ulverstone on February 25. The next forum will be held February 10 at St Helens. Riverside hosted the forum on Thursday evening. 

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