Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Their experiences are heightened by the stigma and discrimination they encounter – not only from society, but also from families, friends and employers.

Cliff is one of these three. Though his daughter understands, his mother refuses to believe it is a ‘thing’ – she has not accepted him due to the stigma attached to his mental illness.

When a person is labelled by their illness, they are seen as part of a stereotyped group; this attitude creates prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination.

The lack of understanding in our society is often fuelled by sensationalising misconceptions by the media; e.g. associating violence with mental illness, therefore, the public view those suffering as violent, when in fact, research shows people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators.

A study by the Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA) found 85 per cent of Australians with a mental illness surveyed were worried others would view them unfavourably because of their mental illness. The survey also found 83 per cent had seen offensive reports about mental illness in the media.

Cliff expresses his disappointment that within his network of friends and family, they have been the hardest to break the stigmas of his mental illness.

“Sometimes they didn’t understand. But sometimes they just don’t want to understand.”

In addition to this, Cliff has developed emphysema through his years of a craftsman. “My dad had it. Back in the day, through the work we did, it was just normal.”

It has gotten to a point where most tasks are a struggle, which has deemed him unemployable. But despite common misunderstanding, like many in his situation, he wants to work.

“I’ll volunteer. I will do anything my health allows me to. I want to be useful. I want to be empowered.”

“Patient transport volunteering. I’d like to do that.”

Author & Image: Katie Liew