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Social workers urge Australians to challenge assumptions and stereotypes on World Mental Health Day

Published: 10 October 2018

World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2018 is an opportunity to renew our commitment to increasing awareness, reducing stigma and challenging structural issues surrounding mental health disparities within our communities, Australian Association of Social Workers National President Christine Craik said today.

“With one in five Australians experiencing mental health issues, days like today are important to challenge how people understand mental health, including negative assumptions and stereotypes. Social workers see firsthand the resilience and courage of individuals and families impacted by mental health issues, and the effects that misconceptions can have of the lives of so many.

“This is an issue that touches individuals, families and communities, highlighting the need for a society wide response,” she said.

“One of the reasons we have so many mental health issues in our society is that lack of recognition of the damage done to individuals and families by poverty, family violence, lack of affordable housing, and a lack of resourcing in education, especially for support within education for young people developing mental health issues as a result of these other issues.

“Until these larger structural issues are addressed, we will continue to have poorer outcomes around mental health and wellbeing. It is also important to remember that behind those statistics are individuals, families and young people in crisis,” Ms Craik said. “While the causes of mental health issues are numerous, what we do know is that central to positive wellbeing is a strong social support network, including friends, family and an understanding community.”

Recent statistics continue to highlight the need for systemic change. The rate of people dying by suicide in Australia has increased by 9.1 per cent over the last year,[1] with suicide also being the leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians aged 15-34 [2].

“The AASW welcomes the announcement this week of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and the proposed focus of the Inquiry on the cost of poor mental health on incomes, living standards, physical wellbeing and social connectedness, and how better outcomes can be achieved. A number of reviews and inquiries have been undertaken, but the system remains fragmented, and with the introduction of the NDIS and loss of funding at state and federal levels, consumers have been left confused and without vital mental health supports,” said Ms Craik.

“Furthermore, we are concerned about reports that so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is on the rise in Australia. Giving weight to archaic practices does nothing to reduce shame, discrimination, and isolation, in fact it further marginalises young LGBTQI+ people, putting them at increased risk of suicide. We welcome the recent motion by the Federal Senate to ban ‘conversion therapy’ and hope this results in concrete outcomes.”

“World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity to come together as a community to celebrate and acknowledge the strength and resilience of people experiencing mental health issues who are living successful and full lives every day, while recognising much more needs to be done to prevent and respond to people’s mental health needs.”

The AASW represents over 11,000 professional social workers, many of whom work at the forefront of mental health.

The AASW encourages people seeking external support for mental health issues to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or their online chat or trial text service at https://www.lifeline.org.au, MensLine 1300 78 99 78, BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636, 000 or to visit their GP.

Christine Craik is available for interview.

Media contact
Angela Yin
Communications Lead
P 03 9320 1005 M 0413 532 954


[1]http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2017~Main%20Features~Intentional%20self-harm,%20key%20characteristics~3

[2]http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2017~Main%20Features~Intentional%20self-harm%20in%20Aboriginal%20and%20Torres%20Strait%20Islander%20people~10

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers