The National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) called for submissions regarding the development of Australia's National Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Strategy. The National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF) submitted a response to the call for submissions by the 1st of February 2023.
Stigma and discrimination for those with mental health challenges and their friends, family, kin, and carers are still largely prevalent across all levels of Australian society, despite heightened recognition in recent times around both issues and subsequent efforts to tackle them. Furthermore, stigma and discrimination of mental ill-health is one of the key determinants as to why those with mental health challenges do not receive care.
Stigma, or a strong prejudicial view associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person, can be self-induced (self-stigma), external (public stigma), or institutional / structural. According to the NMHC’s 2020 National Report on Monitoring Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Reform (the Report), those with mental ill-health and their families and carers experience considerable levels of self-stigma, especially in the forms of shame and fear of being stigmatised or discriminated against by others. Stigmatising attitudes amongst the public, especially towards those with complex mental health issues such as schizophrenia, are still pervasive throughout Australia. Stigmatisation is also rife in the institutionalised services that mental health consumers and carers must deal with every day, such as housing, employment, and healthcare services. There is a clear pathway from stigma to discrimination, the latter of which involves harmful actions originating from a stigmatised view. It is therefore important to counteract stigma in the form of prejudicial beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and language so that discrimination does not have the chance to develop. Moreover, it must be curbed across all different levels of society, from the individual to the community through to the systemic.
Through hearing from those with lived experience of complex mental health issues, it is largely known what general areas can be targeted in order to reduce stigma and discrimination across these differing levels. These are: 1) education, understanding and acceptance, 2) communication and visibility, and 3) accessible services, fair treatment and support. Developing the National Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Strategy is an important weapon in Australia’s arsenal to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health, so it is vital that it is developed with care and that it can target and work across all domains and levels of Australian society. The NMHCCF has put forth this submission with these things in mind.
Submission from the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum to the National Mental Health Commission on the Development of the National Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Strategy