New data gathered for Mental Health Month 2022 debunks the notion that mental health stigma is a thing of the past, with 94 per cent of Australians who have lived experience of mental health issues saying stigma is prevalent – particularly in the workplace.
Halfway through Mental Health Month, the latest research into mental health perceptions and realities for those with both lived and non-lived experiences of mental health issues has shown that 84 per cent of people with an issue have been judged or criticised because of it.
The Mental Health Measure 2022 survey, conducted by WayAhead – (Mental Health Association NSW) gained insights from 2000 respondents nationwide, half with lived experience of mental health and half without, revealing that 90 per cent of respondents have, at some point in their life, been afraid or embarrassed to ask for help about their mental health.
Despite most Australians living with mental health issues saying they knew where to get help (84 per cent), only 19 per cent said they got help as soon as they realised issues were arising.
Data confirmed fears
WayAhead’s Mental Health Promotion Manager, Asha Zappa, said the data matched what is being seen in the community when it comes to people not asking for help when they need it, due to fear of being judged or viewed differently.
‘In our Mental Health Measure findings, we are seeing that although people know where to go, less than a third are getting help within the first few weeks of realising they need it; 39 per cent said it took three months to a year, 20 per cent said it took one year or more, and 10 per cent indicated they are yet to get help,’ said Mx Zappa.
‘Digging deeper into the findings, it becomes glaringly obvious that Australian workplaces are behind the times when it comes to offering safe and supportive environments for people experiencing mental health concerns.’
Nearly 70 per cent of respondents with lived experience of mental health issues felt stigma was most prominent in the workplace, with only 7 per cent of participants indicating they ‘always’ felt comfortable speaking about their mental health with their employer. Across all age brackets, the workplace was the front runner when it came to where stigma is most prevalent.
More than half of the respondents (52 per cent) indicated they felt their job had been jeopardised or impacted by stigma related to their mental health.
Mx Zappa said the research showed that the view of those with lived experience of mental health issues matched those of Australians without.
‘The majority of Australians (75 per cent) with non-lived experience indicated that “rarely” do Aussie workplaces provide a safe environment for people experiencing mental health issues and furthermore, just 22 per cent of people felt that in their own workplace, there was “always” a supportive environment for people with mental health issues.
‘This group of survey respondents overwhelmingly agreed with those with lived experiences – with 91 per cent saying there’s still stigma in Australia surrounding mental health,’ said Mx Zappa.
Interestingly, when respondents without lived experience were asked if the disclosure of mental health concerns from someone they knew would impact how they saw or treated them, only half (51 per cent) said it would have no impact, with the remaining 49 per cent indicating it would have an impact.
Millennials were the most hesitant to ask for help from their families than any other age group, with 50 per cent of those aged 18-24 choosing family, ahead of workplace, school or friends when asked who they were most afraid or embarrassed to seek help from.
Mx Zappa said conversations about mental health needed to continue in an effort to overcome the stigma, with both sides of the survey showing that people believe public education is key.
‘We need to continue educating Australians in our school, workplace, family and community settings,’ said Mx Zappa. ‘At WayAhead, we are working hard to reduce the pervasive stigma that still exists around mental health through support programs, education and advocacy.
‘Together, we need to lift the veil on mental health and help society understand ways to work with people experiencing mental health concerns and navigate the process with acceptance and without judgement and criticism.’
The full survey findings, including a breakdown by gender, age and location, can be found here.
During Mental Health Month, WayAhead is encouraging everyone to tune in to their mental health and visit their website: mentalhealthmonth.org.au to find out what’s on offer in terms of support.
There are downloadable resources for everyone, including a Workplace Mental Health Month Toolkit especially designed for workplaces.