SANE Australia’s Deputy CEO Dr Michelle Blanchard joins Dave to talk about Australian-first research which will examine how people with complex mental illness experience stigma and discrimination

Research by SANE Australia in partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation will examine for the first time how Australians living with complex mental illness experience stigma and discrimination across a range of areas including housing, education, employment and health services to help drive positive change.

More than 690,000 Australians live with complex mental illnesses, such as psychotic illnesses, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, as well as severe and persistent depression and anxiety. People living with complex mental illness can experience a range of poorer health and social outcomes which can be driven by stigma and discrimination from the broader community.

A National Stigma Report Card will be created from a comprehensive survey of 7000 Australians living with complex mental illness about their experiences of stigma and discrimination.

This is the largest survey of its kind conducted in Australia to date.

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The Report Card will provide a baseline by which changes in stigma and discrimination can be assessed over time at a national, state and regional level.

SANE Australia Chief Executive Officer Jack Heath says stigma and discrimination continue to limit access to care, housing, justice and employment for people living with complex mental illness and it’s critical we address this.

“This project will help us find out more about where the issues for people living with complex mental illness lie and the results will be used as a catalyst for change in a range of areas,” Mr Heath said.

“We’ll bring together people with lived experience of complex mental illness and those working in the mental health sector and academia to establish more funding, policy initiatives and programs that will improve the mental health and wellbeing of people living with complex mental illness.”

The project builds on SANE Australia’s leadership role in the reduction of stigma and discrimination stretching back to the organisation’s founding more than 30 years ago.

“Through our partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation we are looking to drive long-term change in policy and practice so that Australians living with complex mental illness can live long and fulfilling lives, free of stigma and discrimination,” Mr Heath said.

“Now more than ever people are seeking help for diagnoses such as depression and anxiety, but Australians living with complex mental health conditions still experience unacceptable levels of stigma and discrimination, as well as poorer health and social and economic outcomes such as poverty, homelessness and unemployment.”

Paul Ramsay Foundation Chief Executive Officer Simon Freeman believes the National Stigma Report Card is vital for addressing the significant gaps in understanding that exist for this vulnerable group.

“Australians living with severe mental illness often experience significant disadvantage and marginalisation. It’s important we understand how stigma and discrimination impacts on their quality of life and how we might go about changing this,” Mr Freeman said.

“We have formed this partnership with SANE because we believe their expertise and passion will enable the collection of much-needed data and also drive the use of this evidence to achieve significant improvements to the lives of these individuals and their families.”

The National Stigma Report Card is the flagship project of the Anne Deveson Research Centre which is being established by SANE Australia to drive change for Australians living with complex mental illness, their family, friends and colleagues.

The Anne Deveson Research Centre will officially launch in October 2018 and will be led by SANE Australia Deputy Chief Executive Officer Dr Michelle Blanchard. The Anne Deveson Research Centre will honour the ground-breaking contribution of SANE Australia co-founder Anne Deveson who led the development of Australia’s first media campaigns to reduce stigma for people living with schizophrenia.