“One of the many stigmatising myths about people living with mental illness is they are dangerous,” Mr Heath said.
“Both the media and film industry must take responsibility to ensure that depictions are more fair, accurate and balanced.”
Dissociative identity disorder involves the coexistence of two or more personality states within the same person. Many mental health professionals, including SANE Director Dr Mark Cross, believe the complex mental illness is associated with overwhelming experiences during childhood such as traumatic events or abuse.
“People living with dissociative identity disorder have quite often been the victims of violence and abuse,” Dr Cross said.
SANE Australia’s StigmaWatch program has received several complaints about the upcoming release of Split since Universal began its advertising campaign for the film.
“The complaints highlight feelings of humiliation caused by the inaccurate portrayal of complex mental illness, along with concerns the movie may cause people living with dissociative identity disorder to withdraw from society,“ Mr Heath said.
“We know stigma is a key factor in preventing people from seeking treatment for mental illness and this can have devastating consequences, including an increased risk of suicide.
“I have personally heard from people living with dissociative identity disorder who are deeply offended by Split but haven’t felt confident enough to speak out against the film as they’ve kept their diagnosis private, including from family and friends.
“This fear and stigma that continues to surround complex mental illness needs to end.”
COAG Health Ministers will meet in April to consider the draft Fifth National Mental Health Plan which includes stigma reduction around complex mental illness as a priority area of action.
“We are reassured that the issue is on the agenda of Federal and State Ministers but we now need to see Governments make a concrete commitment to reducing the stigma surrounding complex mental illness – we need a five-year, multi-faceted stigma reduction effort that measures results and is resourced appropriately,” Mr Heath said.