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Stigma and Discrimination against People with Mental Illness in Australia

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The mental health of a person decides the behavioral patterns, feelings and their relationships with others. A broad spectrum of disorders is included in mental illness (‘Mental Health’). About one-quarter of Australian people are experiencing mental health problems in their lives especially between aged 16-85. The affective disorders like depression, anxiety and substance use disorders such as alcohol use are common. Additionally, women are more likely to have anxiety and depression than men (‘Mental Health’).

Some people negatively see others as a result of their particular attributes or characteristic such as cultural background, disability or mental illness. This is called stigma (‘Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness’, 2015). If someone negatively treats somebody else because of their mental illness, it is called discrimination. The stigma and discrimination triggered with the definition of someone with mental health problems with their illness by society giving them label ‘psychotic’ (‘Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness’, 2015). The stigma is a common condition in most of the mentally ill patients. It is important to study, research and implement required regulations as the impacts of stigma can be more serious (‘Life without Stigma’, 2013). The elimination of stigma ensures the people who are affected by mental illness valuing them as equal members in our society and allowing them to feel they are worth living (‘Life without Stigma’, 2013).

The stigma exists because of the people who lack knowledge about mental health problems and negative attitudes, beliefs even in some mental health professionals. The whole society should have a better understanding of the stigma, discrimination and mental illness (‘Health Direct’, 2019). A study done in 2016 has found that more than half of young people who were suffered from mental illness were reluctant to discuss their problems and half of them had the afraid of what would think others. Among the above-mentioned people, 26 precent have not told anyone about their problems (ABC, 2016). They have cancelled their social events and they had feelings such as people will be looking down them, people wouldn’t understand them and they would be shunned. From every 16 young people in Australia, four are experiencing mental illness and one in four young people struggles to have the help they need (ABC, 2016).

The study was done by Knox et al. in 2014 has found that there are negative interactions between the staff of the Australian community pharmacies and self- stigma impeded consumers. That indicates the importance of having knowledge about mental illness and stigma in all the aspects that engaged with mentally ill persons (ABC, 2016). Then it is important to identify the effects of stigma on individuals with mental illness and the available strategies in Australia to combat this. Here the types of stigma, the effects of stigma on individuals with mental illness and the available strategies to combat this in Australia are discussed (ABC, 2016).

The Types of Stigma

The social stigma (Public stigma) and self-stigma have mainly occurred with mental health problems. In social stigma, people with mental health problems have to suffer from the negative stereotypes done by society. As a result of this discrimination happens (Haddad & Haddad, 2015). As an example, these people are avoided by their friends without housing. When a person internalizes negative stereotypes, it is called as self-stigma. The hopelessness, shame and low self-esteem can be the effects of this stigma (Hadda & Hadddad, 2015). These two stigmas can compel people to avoid help from others and it can worsen the conditions by allowing them to experience anxiety and stress (Haddad & Haddad, 2015). The structural stigma is the restrictions of cultural norms or religious regulations that restrict the opportunities of people with mental health problems. The personal stigma is having stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs about other people in the society (Beyondblue, 2015).

The Effects of Stigma on Mentally Ill People

Social stigma and discrimination can worsen the condition of people with mental illness avoiding the recovery pathways. Because of the fear of being stigmatized, patients try to hide and avoid getting help for treatments (‘Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness, 2015). The stigma generates feelings of hopelessness, shame, and isolation especially, through the lack of love, understanding, and recognition by family, friends, and others. They get fewer opportunities in social engagement and employment opportunities (Stigma, discrimination and mental illness, 2015). They are having feelings of self-doubt whether they will never overcome the symptoms with mental illness and whether they have the ability to fulfil their responsibilities sometimes even the day-to-day events. Also, these patients may have to experience physical violence and harassment (‘Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness’, 2015).

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The stigma makes difficult to find a job, a mortgage or somewhere decent to live and fulfilling other essential things allowing mentally ill people more tragedy. Because of that, those people try to hide from society and getting help from the professionals of mental health (‘Life without Stigma, 2013).

Strategies of Australia Combat Against Stigma

Ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination are the three factors of the stigma that worsen the conditions of mental illness people. There should be a well-planned sequence of programs to combat the stigma, upgrading the mental conditions of the people with mental problems (Haddad & Haddad, 2015). The above three factors of stigma mainly generate through the lack of enough knowledge of mental health problems. The provision of information and knowledge on mental health problems and the importance of helping people with mental illness should be done starting from the school level to mental health professionals. In brief, it should cover all the citizens of the community as anyone can be a family member or friend or another person who has connected with the mentally ill person (ABC, 2016).

The development of policies and plans to ensure the free living of mentally ill people as an individual of society is another key strategy the government of developing policies and plans to guide government action on mental health issues (‘Mental Health’). Already there are rules and regulations against discrimination in Australia and they have connected with international conventions which are protecting the rights of the mentally ill people. In unlawful discrimination, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission help you (‘Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness’, 2015). Additionally, the Australian Human Rights Commission has a higher ability to meddle in these problems as it is a Commonwealth Government Organization that promotes equal opportunity, human rights and it deals with discrimination and compliance (‘Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness’, 2015).

At the international level, the World Health Organization has information on mental health and human rights. Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly consists of “Principles for the protection of persons with mental illness and the improvement of mental health care”. These are great facilitation for Australia to combat against discrimination in legally (‘Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness, 2015).

Another important aspect of this problem is to fund the research studies as the progress of implemented programs, the efficiency of treatments and recovery and problems in prevention, diagnosis and developing new approaches can be identified only through the research studies. The programs, initiatives, and services regarding mental health should be funded for the continuity of these programs. This is not only the responsibility of the government and the other private parties can join with this (‘Mental Health’). On the other hand, these programs should be reviewed and consulted with relevant stakeholders for the identification of new additions, improvements, and defects. The funding should be done for preventive health initiatives and to prevent suicides (‘Mental Health’).


In conclusion, stigmatization is not only a challenge for the government and the mentally ill people. The whole community of Australia should be getting together in this problem with proper knowledge and understanding. This cannot be succeeded through the legislations, funding research studies and implementing other programs. Everyone should learn about the facts on mental illness, share those with family, friends, and others, avoid judging and discriminating mentally ill people, raising your voice against when you hear inaccurate comments or stereotypes and securing the dignity of those people. Everyone in society has a role to play in creating a mentally healthy community in Australia.


  1. ABC (2016, June 6). Stigma Around Mental Health Silencing Young Australians.
  2. Australian Government Department of Health. Mental Health.
  3. Better Health Channel (2015 September). Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Health.
  4. Beyondblue (2015). Beyondblue Information Paper: Stigma and Discrimination Associated with Depression and Anxiety.
  5. Haddad, P. & Haddad,I.(2015) Mental Health Stigma. British Association for Psychopharmacology.
  6. Health Direct (2019, September). Mental Health Stigma.
  7. Sane Australia (2013). A Life without Stigma.
  8. Knox,K., Fejzic,J., Mey,A.& more (2014). Mental Health Consumer and Caregiver Perceptions of Stigma in Australian Community Pharmacies.

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Stigma and Discrimination against People with Mental Illness in Australia. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Stigma and Discrimination against People with Mental Illness in Australia.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
Stigma and Discrimination against People with Mental Illness in Australia. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Sept. 2023].
Stigma and Discrimination against People with Mental Illness in Australia [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from:
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