Mental illnesses are serious conditions

Maree O'Halloran
Welfare Rights Centre

The Federal Government has been floating ideas about potential changes to the income support arrangements for people with “episodic” mental health conditions. The implication appears to be that people are malingering if they need to access the social security “safety-net”.

Community education campaigns have been working in the last decade to help people talk more openly about their experience with mental illness with the aim of removing the traditional secrecy and stigma attached. In this context, it is really important that governments and the media refrain from messaging that infers that mental illnesses are not serious conditions.

SANE Australia, a national charity working for a better life for people affected by mental illness, provided the following facts.

  • About 20 per cent of adults are affected by some form of mental
    disorder each year.
  • 45 per cent of the population will experience a mental disorder at some stage in their lives.
  • Anxiety disorders affect around 14 per cent of the adult population every year. Depression affects around 6 per cent of the adult population every year.
  • Some people are so severely affected by mental illness that they become psychiatrically disabled. Around 3 per cent of adults are psychiatrically disabled by the effects of mental illness.
  • Mental illness itself is not life-threatening. However, up to 15 per cent of people seriously affected by mental illness eventually die by suicide (compared to about 1 per cent for the whole population).
  • Most people with mental illness recover well and are able to lead fulfilling lives in the community — if they receive appropriate ongoing treatment and support. However, for many reasons only about half of those affected actually receive treatment.
  • It is estimated that up to 85 per cent of homeless people have a mental illness.

Visit SANE at www.sane.org.au.