Editorial: De-stigmatising mental health

National Mental Health Week runs from 8 – 15 October this year.

While not everyone living with a mental illness thinks about taking their own life, those who do live with mental illness are more vulnerable to dying by suicide.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that over 13% of Australians have had serious thoughts about ending their own lives at some point.

In 2014, the latest data available, 2 864 people died by suicide. Males make up 75% of these figures, while females make up 25%.

In our feature article this edition, Paul Montague, candidate for the ministry of the Word, shares some of his journey with Type 1 Bipolar Disorder and talks openly about suicide being a serious concern for people  living with the illness.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, in September, Suicide Prevention Australia released new research.

“Our Australian research found that 89% of people knew someonewho had attempted suicide and 85% knew someone who had died by suicide,” said Associate Professor Myfanwy Maple, director of Suicide Prevention Australia.

This means that most Australians are affected by suicide in some way.

Dr Neale Fong, member of the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention, and chaplain for the Churches of Christ, believes that while in the past churches have played a part in stigmatising people with mental  illness, they are now in a position to support the community on this issue.

“The church has an opportunity as well as a responsibility to be raising the issue of mental health and the fact that it’s ok to have a mental health problem; that its not an indication of failure of spiritual growth,” he  said. “The number one thing is to continue the de-stigmatisation of mental health in our community. That means people talking about the fact that they have a mental health issue; that they are not afraid to seek   help.

“We can do a lot more to prevent suicide. Our goal is to get the whole community focussed on what we would say is a real epidemic in our community,” he said.

For more info on Mental Heath Week visit http://mhw.waamh.org.au.

If you need urgent mental health support, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit http://www.beyondblue.org.au to chat online.

For more links and services, visit http://www.mentalhealth.wa.gov.au/getting_help/Emergency_help.aspx

Heather Dowling, editor, Revive magazine

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