Let’s Call Mental Health Stigma What It Really Is: Discrimination

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It’s no secret that there’s a veil of shame surrounding mental illness.

Nearly one in five American adults will experience a mental health disorder in a given year. Yet only 25 percent of people with a psychological condition feel that others are understanding or compassionate about their illness, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Typically, we refer to this dissonance as stigma, but we have been wrong to do so. The negative stereotypes that shame those with mental illness and prevent them from seeking help don’t just constitute stigma ― they’re discrimination. It’s a blatant, prejudicial outlook on a certain population.

It is certainly true that people with mental illness are taught to feel shame ― to believe that they have a character deficiency that is disgraceful, “all in their heads” or something to just “get over.” But the way we collectively treat people with mental illness goes far beyond that.

People with a mental illness are more likely to encounter law enforcement than get medical help during a psychological crisis. There are currently more people with mental illness in jails and prisons than in hospitals. They’re blamed for violenc ewhen they’re more likely to be the victims. They have higher rates of homelessness. They’re seen as a danger to society, to other people, to themselves.

People with mental health conditions are treated differently than everyone else.

People with mental health conditions are treated differently than everyone else.

Look at the narrative from politicians. They use terms associated with mental illness as mudslinging insults. They blame mental health disorders for national tragedies. There’s even pushback and debate when it comes to mental health reform.

Tackling the unfavourable outlook surrounding mental health starts by encouraging more people to talk about it openly. Otherwise, as research shows, people won’t seek the medical support they need ― support that can lead to recovery. Untreated mental health conditions can lead to a loss in productivity, poor sleep habits and withdrawal from social situations.

Ultmately, it’s more than just changing hearts or minds ― it’s about getting to the root of the problem by fixing systemic issues. That means more mental health training for first responders, more policies that help people with mental illness get the care they need from medical professionals and more workplace acceptance and initiatives that support individuals dealing with a psychological issue.

Of course, not everyone is a legislator or a company CEO or can implement more programs for first responders. But an average citizen can lend their voice. One way to start small is to by calling out the judgmental viewpoints surrounding mental illness by labelling them exactly what they are: intolerance for a group of individuals. By addressing this outlook in a more pointed way, people may take it more seriously, Entomoto said.

Because you’re not just dealing with a mark of shame, you’re dealing with discrimination. Full stop.

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Gold Coast groups to alleviate alarming suicide rates in men

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Men’s groups are playing a key role in addressing depression and the alarming rate of suicide among older men.

Spokesmen for Men’s Sheds said it was not uncommon for members to tell them a shed had saved their lives and had given them a reason to get up in the morning. This was echoed by Ian McDougall, founder of the Blokes Lounge, who said groups like his alleviated social isolation among men, a key trigger for depression.

Their comments follow statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and MindFrame from the Hunter Institute of Technology, which show the suicide rate per capita was alarmingly high among those 85 years and older.

The rate is 37.6 male suicides per 100,000 people compared to 20.6 suicide males in the 20-24-year age group and 29.9 males in the 40-44-year age group.

Malcolm Weier of the Qld Men’s Shed Association, said he could tell of men who had said they would be dead if they did not attend a Men’s Shed.

“Men’s Sheds are exceptional for men’s mental, social and emotional wellbeing,” he said. “They provide a place for men to talk about their problems to each other. It’s unusual for men to talk to each other about their problems.

“We see plenty of men who come to the shed, lonely and depressed. They’re seeking the company of other men because they were in the company in men in their normal jobs.”

Mr Weier speaks at universities, city councils and others about the vital role of Men’s Sheds in reducing social isolation, depression and subsequent suicide risk among men.

“People have this misconception that men just do traditional woodwork at Men’s Sheds but each shed is run independently and chooses its own activities,” he said.

Groups such as the Bloke’s Lounge have been founded to promote social interaction in men over the age of 50.

Groups such as the Bloke’s Lounge have been founded to promote social interaction in men over the age of 50.

He said members were also encouraged to take part in shed exercise programs, visits to local swimming pools and learn deep breathing techniques.

“Most of the guys at Men’s Sheds are retired and aged 60-plus but we have a guy at our shed who is 18 and in a wheelchair. His primary carer is 19 and our oldest bloke is 90,” Mr Meier said.

Mr McDougall, of the Bloke’s Lounge, said the group was founded for men over the age of 50 so that they could make new mates, which helped reduce the growing issue of social isolation.

“By getting involved, many blokes have come out of their shells and I’ve watched them shake off the blues through increased physical activity and becoming mentally engaged with other men,” he said.

Mr McDougall said unemployment was a major cause of loneliness among men.

“It’s more difficult to find work in this age group than it was a few years ago and dislocation from the work force can lead to risky activity such as gambling, drinking or drugs,” he warned.

“Other factors are divorce, loss of a partner, lack of mobility and reliance on carers, as well as a loss of personal space as a result of downsizing or moving in to retirement towers.”

“The Gold Coast is 50km long and it’s a hard place to meet people and make friends,” he said.

“The Lounge has developed into a great collection of blokes from different personal, ethnic, work, spiritual and geographical backgrounds.

“These men have with different opinions, get on well together, make few demands, enjoy socialising, offer help and assistance and are forming strong friendships through shared activities.”

For more information, read more.

Hobart’s Headspace centre minds when it matters

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Awareness  of mental health and wellbeing has led to soaring demand for a Hobart youth health service.

Hobart’s Headspace centre, a mental health service for 12 to 25-year-olds, has seen demand increase as stigma in the community has reduced.

Manager Miranda Ashby said she welcomed the extra demand as it showed young people were open to talking and seeking help for issues such as anxiety and depression.

“The stigma around mental health is really breaking down,” she said.

Hobart Headspace centre manager Miranda Ashby. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

Hobart Headspace centre manager Miranda Ashby. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

Headspace has a strong focus on self care, helping young people with tips and strategies to improve their mental health — such as apps that teach meditation and breathing exercises. The Hobart Headspace performed 4300 services in the 2015-16 financial year — way above the national Headspace centre average of 3000.

The service saw 1169 young people last financial year, including 754 new clients. The busy client base makes the Hobart office one of the top five busiest Headspace offices in Australia, Ms Ashby said.

But she said the federally funded service could do with more resources.

Headspace deals mostly with mild to moderate mental health issues but acts as a gateway to other services for more severe conditions.

As well as youth counsellors and psychologists, it has four GPs to help with mental health care plans, general health and sexual health. One of the service’s clinical psychologists, Bethany Smith, said the growth in demand was mostly due to growing awareness rather than a large increase in problems among young people. Ms Smith said the centre dealt with a wide range of issues, with many young people facing anxiety around school pressure and relationships.

Many could be guided through some self-care tips, while others might benefit from some sessions with a psychologist. Ms Smith said one of the easiest ways to communicate with youth was through technology, so a range of apps had been developed to help with mental health and wellbeing.

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9 Things People With Mental Illness Want Their Bosses To Know

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Everyone dreads going into work sometimes. But for those with a mental health disorder, that feeling is more than just a run-of-the-mill case of “the Mondays.”

Mental illness affects nearly one in five American adults in a given year. It brings about physical and emotional symptoms, none of which just disappear as soon as an individual steps through that office front door.

But having a mental health issue doesn’t make a person inept at his or her job. In fact, work may even help them manage their illness. Yet the stigma that mental illness is some sort of flaw still exists ― and that misconception (or the fear of it) could carry over into the workplace.

Below are just a few things those with mental health conditions wish their employers understood:

1. Even just coming into the office is a giant feat.

2. Productivity can suffer if they’re not supported.

3. They’re afraid of being held back if they reveal their illness.

4. There should be mental health resources at work.

5. Sometimes therapy will conflict with work schedules.

6. Sick days take on a different meaning.

7. Mental health terms are not a joke.

8. Mental illness is just as important as physical illness.

9. Your support means the world.

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Anxiety Disorders: You Are Not Alone And You Can Beat This

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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s way of responding to danger and in fact is quite normal. It is an automatic alarm that goes off when you feel threatened, afraid or under stress. It motivates us to study harder and warns us when we are in dangerous situations.

When you experience anxiety, your body’s fight-flight-freeze response is triggered. You might feel like running from the situation (flight), yelling or crying (fight) or become more alert (freeze). However, this response can become a problem when the perceived danger is not actually dangerous at all.

Sometimes, the anxiety becomes so frequent and intense that it begins to take over our lives. Anxiety disorders can include panic attacks, phobias and social anxiety. In all of these cases, a person with an anxiety disorder has repeated anxious thoughts that interfere with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable, sometimes debilitating symptoms. It can affect how we think, feel and act.

Some causes of anxiety may include genetics (a family history of anxiety), a chemical imbalance in the brain or a significant stressful event(s) such as a death, break-up or ongoing bullying at school.

What does it feel like to have anxiety?

If you have anxiety or think you might, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You may experience just a few or all of the symptoms of anxiety — it is different for everyone and, because of this, it might feel like no one truly understands what you are experiencing. It can feel like everything inside is racing and tense and you’re about to burst out of your skin. Or a tightness in your throat and a knot in your stomach, mixed with obsessive worry and fear. Or a wave of exhaustion and the inability to focus on anything, making you want to avoid everything and everyone. Each person’s story is unique.

Do I have anxiety?

It is certainly not unusual to worry or get the odd case of butterflies. But if anxiety is affecting your life and you are missing out on opportunities because of fears and worries, it may be important to consider seeking help.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I worry excessively about the future or bad things happening (for example, earthquakes, a loved one getting hurt or sick, failing a test)?
  • Do I often feel restless or on edge?
  • Do I often feel uncomfortable in social situations or when talking to unfamiliar people?
  • Do I spend at least an hour a day repeating things, such as washing, checking, arranging or counting?

If you answered yes to any of them or believe anxiety might be a problem for you, it is important that you talk to someone you trust like a parent, counsellor or trusted health professional.

Strategies to manage anxiety

With the right treatment and support, you can learn to better control and recover from anxiety. The recovery process might be different for everyone, but learning how to identify triggers that cause you to feel anxiety and use strategies to lessen the negative responses are ways to successfully control symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most common therapies used to help manage anxiety. It helps us to understand how thoughts and behaviours are connected to our feelings and how to change these negative responses into more realistic and positive problem-solving approaches.

You can actually start to practice some of the skills taught in CBT in your own home! Find a quiet, comfy place and try some of these exercises:

  • Mindfulness
  • Calm Breathing
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (“tense and release”)
  • Realistic Thinking

Take time for self-care

One of the most important ways to help manage anxiety is through self-care. Setting time aside each day to care for ourselves gives us more energy and focus in order to manage stress and make positive changes in our lives. Don’t feel guilty for taking the time for you! Even if you have an incredibly long to-do list, take a few minutes in the day to reconnect with yourself. You deserve this time. And your mind and body will feel better for it!

Here are some self-care strategies you can try:

  • Listen to music
  • Keep a diary
  • Talk to someone you trust or spend time with friends and family
  • Get as much sleep as possible
  • Exercise and eat a healthy diet

Like many things in life, managing anxiety takes practice so try not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t feel better right away. Take things one day at a time and celebrate your accomplishments, both big and small. Know you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if your anxiety is affecting your life. There are people and places around you who want to help and support you in your journey to recovery and happiness.

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The wellbeing cost of mental health hits $200 billion

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The cost of mental illness to Australia’s wellbeing has hit $200 billion a year – equivalent to about 12 per cent of the economy’s annual output.

The Herald-Lateral Economics Index of Australia’s Wellbeing – which provides a better measure of changes in national welfare than traditional economic data – shows the drag on our collective wellbeing caused by mental illness is worth $40 billion more than a decade ago.

The index’s author, Dr Nicholas Gruen, who is also the Chair of The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, said mentalillness is “under-appreciated” as an economic problem.

About one in five adults experience mental illness in any year which makes it a major drag on Australia’s collective wellbeing. Traditional economic measures only pick up some of the financial impact of mental illness, such as days off work. But those with poor mental health tend to report much lower levels of wellbeing than average and the index puts a dollar figure on these major non-economic effects.

the-mental-health-drag

In 2005-06 the index put the wellbeing cost of mental illness at $159.7 billion but that had climbed to $203.1 billion by last financial year. The drag on wellbeing caused by mental illness was $52 billion in the June quarter alone.

The rising rate of obesity is another major drag on welfare. The index shows the annual wellbeing cost of obesity reached $122.5 billion last financial year. Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of obesity and drag on wellbeing caused by obesity measure has been growing more quickly than any other index component.

Despite the negative effects of mental illness and obesity rates, the wellbeing index overall rose by 2.5 per cent in the June quarter.

The solid growth in the wellbeing index was due mainly to improvements in formal adult qualifications. The proportion of the prime working age population – those aged between 20 and 64 – with a post-school qualification has now risen above 60 percent. That compares to just 47 per cent in 2005.

The index result was also buoyed by a reduction in the number of Australians in long-term unemployment – those who have been out of work for a year or more. This helped to reduce the drag on wellbeing caused by skills atrophy – when skills deteriorate during long periods out of work.

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Should you tell your boss you have depression?

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Spilling the beans to an understanding employer may help to improve your health and your career.

When corporate executive Michelle* was struggling with a particularly difficult episode of depression she decided, after many years of staying silent, to discuss the issue with her manager.

“I chose to do that because it was apparent that my performance was suffering and I wanted my employer to know why – that it wasn’t just me being slack,” she says. “By that stage I was in a very senior role in the organisation and I had a good relationship of trust with my supervisor.”

should-you-tell-your-boss-you-have-depression

Michelle says her manager was very understanding, providing support to help her recover from the episode as well as ongoing flexibility to manage her health. Everything ticked along just fine until Michelle’s manager left the organisation and it became clear her replacement resented the arrangement.

“She went behind my back and constantly asked colleagues and people who reported to me whether I was up to the job and whether my health was impacting negatively on them,” says Michelle. “Over a two-year period that level of undermining became a pattern of bullying and every time I took a sick day it was reported as masking an underlying problem.”

Unsurprisingly, Michelle eventually changed jobs and decided against disclosing her condition to her new employer. So what’s the best approach if you too are affected by depression: spill the beans to your boss or keep it to yourself?

Despite increased awareness of depression – which affects about one million Australians each year – thanks to initiatives like R U OK? Day, experts say deciding to disclose a mental health condition to your employer is very much a personal choice.

Despite these rules and regulations, stigma is still a significant concern. Mental health remains taboo in many Australian workplaces, and research shows that 22 per cent of people have witnessed mental illness-related discrimination in the workplace while 35 per cent say they will never disclose a mental illness to their employer.

Employees aren’t legally required to tell their employer about mental health conditions – unless the condition has the potential to endanger safety – and Arvanitis says in some situations it can be wise to keep quiet.

“There are some obvious concerns that [disclosing] might impact on your ability to stay in the job or it might be that you’re concerned that you’ll be overlooked for promotion or it might limit your career,” he says. “In some instances, it might not be helpful to disclose because the employer just wouldn’t understand or may have some uneducated or stigmatised attitudes around mental health and mental illness.”

Dr Barnes says workplaces are becoming more tuned in to the needs of people affected by mental illness, but ultimately the decision comes down to your individual workplace. “How supportive do you believe your workplace is?” she says. “If you’ve got evidence of discrimination, then it’s probably a very bad idea to disclose.”

Michelle agrees that assessing the pros and cons will help you to make the best decision for your circumstances. “You have to weigh it up on the merits but you also have to be prepared if there’s a change of environment – where does that leave you and how do you protect yourself?” she says.

“If you want to have the conversation for really good reasons about supporting you and making you a better employee, and you believe that your employer is going to behave in an honourable way and you’re going to get support, then I think it’s worth doing.”

*Not her real name.

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Workplace mental health a challenge for managers

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Reported mental health issues in the workplace have risen 56 per cent in the past year, and almost half of companies in a major survey say at least one employee has committed suicide or been at risk of doing so, according to a new report.

A survey of 200 companies by law firm Minter Ellison found that one-third of the firms had recorded more than 15 cases of staff experiencing mental health issues in their organisation in the previous 12 months. Forty-two per cent of the companies surveyed had more than than 2000 staff members.

Eighty-one per cent of the company representatives responding to the survey said they spent up to 25 per cent of their time managing staff with mental health issues. Depression and anxiety were the most common illnesses reported.

Of the companies surveyed, 44 per cent said that someone on their staff had either committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide in the previous two years. But 74 per cent of organisations said they lack formal and specific mental health policies or procedures.

Minter Ellison partner Harriet Eager said that, in most cases, employees did not raise mental health issues with managers until they were involved in performance management.

“Managers need to increase their preparedness to discuss mental health proactively,” Ms Eager said.

“They are the ones on the front line dealing with these issues. So they need to be given the skills to identify issues with staff and training on what words to use when raising it with them.”

Ms Eager said this was important in order to abide by work health and safety laws, and to avoid discrimination, adverse action and unfair dismissal claims.

Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett said the increase in the number of cases was a reflection that employees in Australian workplaces were becoming more open to discussing the issue of mental health. Wayne Taylor

Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett said the increase in the number of cases was a reflection that employees in Australian workplaces were becoming more open to discussing the issue of mental health. Wayne Taylor

Cases on the rise

Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett said the increase in the number of cases was a reflection that employees in Australian workplaces were becoming more open to discussing the issue of mental health.

He said, however, that cases were on the rise with increased pressures being placed on people by themselves, by society and by the workplace.

“The problem is so many people don’t have the mechanisms to deal with mental health and no benchmark to measure stress and anxiety on and the problem is if it’s left untreated it will get worse,” Mr Kennett said.

Mr Kennett, who will address Australian leaders at the Business Council of Australia in October, said a number of companies had made great strides in helping employees deal with mental health issues.

Last year construction giant Lend Lease introduced mental health and suicide prevention training across its building, engineering and services sites in Australia to help workers recognise the warning signs, support their colleagues and provide them with expert help.

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2016 Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium Program

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The 2016 Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium Program is now available to view here:  http://anzmh.asn.au/rrmh/program/16/program16.pdf

Mark your calendar with this important event being held 2 – 4 November at Mantra on Salt Beach, Kingscliff, NSW, located less than 15 minutes from Gold Coast Airport.

Early Bird rates close on 21 September so BOOK TODAY and you will save $100 off the registration fee!

Delegates attending will receive the following benefits:

  • Hear keynote presentations by renowned speakers
  • Have access to over 50 concurrent presentations, 6 workshops, 9 keynote addresses and the Mental Health Commission Panel
  • Participate in the discussion with Q&A opportunities
  • Be one of the first 50 to register to receive complimentary workshops (save up to $130)
  • Network with like-minded professionals at the free Welcome Reception (Full Registration only)
  • Access the Presenter podcasts to catch up on any sessions you may miss
  • Have access the online copy of the Book of Proceedings
  • Enjoy meals for the duration of the event including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea
  • Receive symposium materials including satchel and handbook
  • Meet with exhibitors and peruse the poster displays
  • Win prizes at the closing ceremony

INTERESTED IN SPONSORSHIP OR A TRADE DISPLAY?

A vast range of Sponsorship opportunities to enhance exposure of your business are now available. Ranging from 1/4 page advertisements to ‘Conference Partner’, cost effective packages can be tailored to suit individual organisations.

For more information on Sponsorship for the 2016 Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium please visit the conference website.

Let’s talk about mental health at work

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“We know that it can be really hard to talk to staff about mental health and how to actually look after one another’s health and well-being.”

In a recent interview, Rebecca Lewis, campaign director of R U OK? Day, told HC about how this nationwide event could help encourage difficult conversations amongst staff.

R U OK? Day, which will be held on 8 September, is a powerful entry point to talk about mental health and other issues with colleagues, she said.

“If you’re an organisation which doesn’t know how to start the conversation with staff about the importance of well-being and an individual sense of connection and belonging, R U OK is the perfect starting point.”

To get people on board with the program, there are three critical ingredients for organisations to include, Lewis said.

“The first is to mobilise legitimate supporters. You need someone within the executive team – someone who people take note of – to endorse the message.

“What’s critically important is that person is a genuine advocate of mental health and well-being. If you kind of have someone who’s less interested in that, it probably won’t resonate as strongly.”

Second, it is important to inspire people to start the conversation instead of simply telling them to talk, she said.R U OK poster

This may be someone on the executive team or simply a staff member who is willing to share their insights about moments they benefited from these conversations.

Finally, employers should also create opportunities for staff to actually connect and have these conversations, Lewis said.

“Give staff that opportunity whether that’s creating a conversation café, hosting an event for staff or even giving people an extra 30 minutes at lunch to call someone that they haven’t spoken to in a while.”

By doing this, HR will bring about a great deal of benefits to both the individual and the business.

“R U OK contributes to an individual’s sense of well-being which directly impacts on their work and their ability to embrace workplace challenges. This in turn flows on to the viability of the company.”

So while it is a gradual flow on effect, the act of championing regular conversations between peers on a regular basis can translate into a better company culture, Lewis said.

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