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Australian-first research will examine how people with complex mental illness experience stigma and discrimination

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Research by SANE Australia in partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation will examine for the first time how Australians living with complex mental illness experience stigma and discrimination across a range of areas including housing, education, employment and health services to help drive positive change.

More than 690,000 Australians live with complex mental illnesses, such as psychotic illnesses, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, as well as severe and persistent depression and anxiety. People living with complex mental illness can experience a range of poorer health and social outcomes which can be driven by stigma and discrimination from the broader community.

A National Stigma Report Card will be created from a comprehensive survey of 7000 Australians living with complex mental illness about their experiences of stigma and discrimination.

This is the largest survey of its kind conducted in Australia to date.

The Report Card will provide a baseline by which changes in stigma and discrimination can be assessed over time at a national, state and regional level.

SANE Australia Chief Executive Officer Jack Heath says stigma and discrimination continue to limit access to care, housing, justice and employment for people living with complex mental illness and it’s critical we address this.

“This project will help us find out more about where the issues for people living with complex mental illness lie and the results will be used as a catalyst for change in a range of areas,” Mr Heath said.

“We’ll bring together people with lived experience of complex mental illness and those working in the mental health sector and academia to establish more funding, policy initiatives and programs that will improve the mental health and wellbeing of people living with complex mental illness.”

The project builds on SANE Australia’s leadership role in the reduction of stigma and discrimination stretching back to the organisation’s founding more than 30 years ago.

“Through our partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation we are looking to drive long-term change in policy and practice so that Australians living with complex mental illness can live long and fulfilling lives, free of stigma and discrimination,” Mr Heath said.

“Now more than ever people are seeking help for diagnoses such as depression and anxiety, but Australians living with complex mental health conditions still experience unacceptable levels of stigma and discrimination, as well as poorer health and social and economic outcomes such as poverty, homelessness and unemployment.”

Paul Ramsay Foundation Chief Executive Officer Simon Freeman believes the National Stigma Report Card is vital for addressing the significant gaps in understanding that exist for this vulnerable group.

“Australians living with severe mental illness often experience significant disadvantage and marginalisation. It’s important we understand how stigma and discrimination impacts on their quality of life and how we might go about changing this,” Mr Freeman said.

“We have formed this partnership with SANE because we believe their expertise and passion will enable the collection of much-needed data and also drive the use of this evidence to achieve significant improvements to the lives of these individuals and their families.”

The National Stigma Report Card is the flagship project of the Anne Deveson Research Centre which is being established by SANE Australia to drive change for Australians living with complex mental illness, their family, friends and colleagues.

The Anne Deveson Research Centre will officially launch in October 2018 and will be led by SANE Australia Deputy Chief Executive Officer Dr Michelle Blanchard. The Anne Deveson Research Centre will honour the ground-breaking contribution of SANE Australia co-founder Anne Deveson who led the development of Australia’s first media campaigns to reduce stigma for people living with schizophrenia.

To find out more about the National Stigma Report Card, sign up to the Anne Deveson Research Centre newsletter.

For information, support and guidance from mental health professionals contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 from 10am-10pm weekdays AEST.

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, contact the following 24/7 crisis support services: Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, Mensline on 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

ENDS

To organise an interview with SANE Australia Deputy CEO and Founding Director of the Anne Deveson Research Centre Dr Michelle Blanchard, contact:
Ellen Sproule
Senior Media and Public Relations Advisor
Phone: 0407 367 215
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For media interviews with the Paul Ramsay Foundation, contact:
Gayle McNaught
Phone: 0401 625 905

ABOUT SANE AUSTRALIA
SANE Australia is a national mental health charity working to support four million Australians affected by complex mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, severe and enduring mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Our work includes online peer support and information, stigma reduction, a specialist helpline service, research and advocacy.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL STIGMA REPORT CARD
The National Stigma Report Card, which is the flagship program of the Anne Deveson Research Centre, seeks to understand how Australians living with complex mental illness experience stigma and discrimination. This knowledge will drive positive change across a range of areas including housing, education, employment and health services. The Report Card will enable SANE Australia and other key stakeholders to advocate for the establishment of stigma reduction and mental health reform initiatives at national, state, territory and local levels, as well as facilitate better outcomes for people living with complex mental illness. This project is generously supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

ABOUT THE ANNE DEVESON RESEARCH CENTRE
The Anne Deveson Research Centre (ADRC) promotes social outcomes for Australians living with complex mental health problems, their family, friends and colleagues. The Centre brings together SANE Australia, researchers from a range of backgrounds and disciplines, and sector and industry partners to explore the challenges that people living with complex mental illness face. Importantly, the Centre actively engages people with lived experience of complex mental illness as both researchers and co-designers of new approaches. The Centre was named after SANE's co-founder Anne Deveson AO, a pioneer in mental health who opened up the national public conversation about mental illness in Australia.

ABOUT THE PAUL RAMSAY FOUNDATION
Paul Ramsay Foundation is committed to improving health and education outcomes for the entire Australian population, with a particular focus on some of our most disadvantaged communities. With an emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration, we invest in the development and implementation of practical solutions that empower communities and result in long-term, systemic change. We work as a catalyst for change, seeking out and partnering with the brightest minds to unlock evidence, build momentum and maximise impact. For more information about the work of the Foundation, go to https://paulramsayfoundation.org.au/

ABOUT DR MICHELLE BLANCHARD
Dr Michelle Blanchard is the Deputy CEO at SANE Australia. Michelle has also recently been appointed the Founding Director of SANE’s Anne Deveson Research Centre. Prior to joining SANE, Michelle was National Manager – Programs and Practice at the Butterfly Foundation and Head of Projects and Partnerships at the Young and Well CRC. Michelle was also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. Michelle is currently a Non-Executive Director of youth mental health organisation batyr and holds various advisory roles with government, non-profit and industry bodies. She is the current Co-Chair of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue's Young Leadership Dialogue. Michelle holds a PhD in Youth Mental Health, a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree with majors in Psychology and Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in Adolescent Health and Welfare, all from the University of Melbourne.
Last updated: 1 August, 2018