The latest research conducted for Mental Health Month into mental health perceptions and realities for those who have experienced mental health issues reveals some concerning findings in the fight to improve mental health awareness.
The Mental Health Measure 2022 Survey, conducted by WayAhead (the Mental Health Association NSW) shows that 84 per cent of people with a mental health issue were judged or criticised because of it. As a result, 90 per cent have, at some point in their life, been afraid or embarrassed to ask for help about their mental health. And while most Australians living with mental health issues said they knew where to get help (84 per cent), only 19 per cent said they got it as soon as they realised issues were arising.
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,” Zappa said.
“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 seven per cent of participants indicating they ‘always’ felt comfortable speaking about their mental health with their employer. And 52 per cent also said they felt their job had been jeopardised or impacted by stigma related to their mental health.
Zappa said that 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,” Zappa said.
The research also found that 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, 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.
Zappa emphasised the need to continue the conversations in mental health in an effort to overcome the stigma.
“We need to continue educating Australians in our school, workplace, family and community settings,” Zappa said. “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.”
Originally published as https://insidesmallbusiness.com.au/people-hr/health-safety/stigma-around-mental-health-still-rife-in-the-workplace