Aussies lack mental health literacy

Despite two in three Australians having been diagnosed with a mental health condition, or knowing someone who has, Bupa research released on Monday indicates they are not confident when it comes to mental health.

Researchers surveyed 1000 Australians to assess the nation’s mental health literacy and found that many people simply did not know what to do or where to go for help. 

The research suggests that 85 per cent of Australians are not very confident they would know where to go for help if they or one of their dependents were experiencing mental health problems. 

Bupa believes this lack of knowledge and limited access to mental health services are significant barriers to seeking help.

Shame and embarrassment were identified as the most common obstacles when it comes to addressing mental health conditions. 

The report exposes the need for an improved understanding around where to go for information and why better access to services is essential for enabling Australians to seek help for mental health management.  

Dr Zoe Wainer, the head of public health at Bupa, said Australia had a lot of room for improvement when it came to dealing with mental health issues.

“This research highlights the need to help Australians gain a better understanding of the mental healthcare system,” Dr Wainer said.

“This has a real impact on people’s ability to seek help and receive the appropriate treatment for mental health conditions.”

The study shows there is widespread confusion about where to seek help for mental health conditions.

General Practitioners (GPs) are identified as the most common source of information, supporting the findings from research launched earlier this year by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, which identified mental health issues as the No.1 presenting patient condition.

Another trend identified in Bupa’s study is the use of online search engines, such as Google, for information.

Based on the research, one in five Australians (21 per cent) are likely to use online searches to access information about mental health. Yet, despite being heavily used, the majority don’t believe online sites are a credible source.  

In addition to confusion around where to go for information, the research also identifies access to mental healthcare as another barrier to treatment.

It indicates that the majority of Australians think that mental health services are not as well supported as general health services. This is considered to be far worse in regional communities, compared to metropolitan areas.

“This research suggests that 72 per cent of Australians regard shame and embarrassment as the most significant barrier to accessing treatment. This needs to change,” said Dr Wainer.

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Australian readers seeking support and information about suicide and depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Written by Ben

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