People living with mental illness and those working to help them have called for more to be done to address the impact and the stigma surrounding the condition.

October was NSW Mental Health month and it aimed to raise awareness of and support the 20 per cent of Australians who live with mental illness. Many communities and council services have made it a priority to promote mental wellbeing and instigate initiatives to support those with mental illness.

“The fact is that if one in five people were affected by cancer, you can imagine what would be happening,” WayAhead Mental Health Association NSW coordinator Matthew Keighery said.

“Mental health is just not given the same regard as issues such as cancer.

“We need to make people aware of it so that people don’t have to feel stigmatised and realise that a mental health issue is just like any other health issue.”

Emily Piano is a mental health activist who has Bipolar Disorder.

“Rampant stigma, especially in the media and popular culture, of people with a lived experience of mental illness have led to really insidious assumptions about what it is like to have a mental illness, what effects it has, and what behaviour people with a mental illness can exhibit.,” she said.

“This influences perception, how you are received by other people and the language used around you,” she said.

Julie Dale is the Interrelate Area Manager of Sydney South. She urged people to speak up when they have a mental health issue.

“Our youth especially are experiencing challenges with mental health. We’re very fortunate in this country to have assistance for people when they do have challenges through life around mental health, and people should be utilising these services.” Mrs Dale said.


(Information in this infographic from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results 2007.)

WayAhead offers a range of services for communities across Australia, and is focused on education, support and prevention in mental health care.

“The theme for this year was Learn and Grow, so the whole idea is for all people, not just those affected by a mental illness, but everybody in the community to understand about their own part they play in looking after their mental health.” Mr Keighery said.

The Sutherland Shire Council and partners held mental health-focused events in October. The events included a book reading for children and families, a forum at Sutherland Hospital and, while it was postponed until November due to the weather, a film night showing Disney Pixar’s film Inside Out.


Samantha Brandon, UOWTV Multimedia.