Globally, 450 million people suffer from some form of mental illness, according to the World Health Organisation. In Australia itself, one in five Aussies suffer from a mental illness. But the stigma surrounding mental health is so widespread that it prevents people from seeking care.

This can have a devastating effect on lives and families, as well as society at large. If you or someone you know has a mental health condition but is hesitant to talk to an expert, it is a good idea to begin by looking for a counsellor online.

According to WHO, approximately 3,000 people die of suicide daily. Suicide is the second most leading cause of death in 15-29 year olds. By accepting that mental illness is a realillness, we can help eliminate self-stigma borne from this dangerous thought process and save lives.

The vicious cycle of mental health conditions

In many countries and cultures, mental illness is not recognised as an illness. In some cultures, mental wellbeing is a foreign concept. But mental illness is not a figment of someone’s imagination, nor is it a sign of weakness. These perceptions can lead to the individual covering it up, feeling guilty, or refusing to find a counsellor.

As a result of this, many people don’t acknowledge they need care, or that it may help. In Australia, of the one in five adults who develop a mental illness only 35% seek care from mental health practitioners like psychologists.

Here are some truths about mental health that may surprise you:

  • People with mental illness can function well in workplaces and lead productive lives. They simply learn how to manage their symptoms so they can complete their goals like working, volunteering and contributing to their community.
  • Many mental health conditions can be treated and cured. When treated early and appropriately, many people make a full recovery. Others may find that their condition recurs throughout life and involves ongoing treatment.
  • People with mental health don’t display higher rates of absenteeism when compared to people with chronic physical conditions.
  • Studies have shown that people with mental illness are not less capable or intelligent. In fact, they have average or above average intelligence.
  • Most people with mental illness are not violent. Violent behaviour often stems from a past history of violence and criminality, not from mental illness. It’s also worth understanding that people affected by mental illness are 10 times more likely to be victims of violence than be the perpetrators.

How can I be a mental health ally?

Before you can begin to dispel the stigma, you must know your own hidden biases. Look below for the most common myths and misconceptions around mental health. While reading these ask yourself:

  • Have I encountered prejudice that prevented me from looking for counsellors near me?
  • Was I the cause of this prejudice against someone else?
  • Have I avoided looking for counselling near me to my own detriment?
  • If I look for a counsellors near me, am I more likely to schedule regular appointments?
  • Have my actions had a negative impact on another person’s health and wellbeing?
  • How can I be supportive and help a loved one find counselling near me?

When it comes to physical trauma and illness, we’re more accepting because we can see the physical signs and symptoms. Withmental illness, we may be quick to dismiss it as being made up or imaginary. But mental health is very real.

How can I help a friend or family member who is dealing with a mental illness?

Friends and family are critical components in an affected person’s life. You can help someone who has a mental health condition in these ways:

  • Reach out to them and let them know you’re here for them.
  • Ask them how they are and check in with them regularly
  • Help them find a counsellor online or nearby
  • Listen to them without judgment
  • Do not define them by their diagnosis or symptoms
  • If you hear anything like self stigma from them, discuss mental health facts
  • Encourage and support them to seek care from qualified practitioners like psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors