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Seminar to breakdown stigma of mental illness

By Leanne Coleman

CDU Pharmacy lecturer Hana Morrissey holds the mascot for mental health first aid, ALGEE the koala CDU Pharmacy lecturer Hana Morrissey holds the mascot for mental health first aid, ALGEE the koala

It’s an alarming statistic and one that is rarely talked about, but the truth is that more people suffer from mental health problems than heart disease in Australia each year.

A public seminar series entitled “Demystifying Mental Illness” was held recently to remove the stigma associated with mental health and better inform the community about the issue.

Charles Darwin University senior lecturer in Pharmacy and seminar co-ordinator Hana Morrissey said that while many people knew how to deal with a physical health emergency, they may not understand how to deal with a mental health related incident or know about the help services available.

“In any year, one in six people will have a stroke, but one in five will suffer from a mental illness,” Ms Morrissey said.

“Treatment of mental illness has moved from ‘institutions’ to ‘care within the community’. We hope to promote a better understanding within the community about how they can help themselves or someone they know who may be suffering from mental illness.”

As a Mental Health First Aid instructor, Ms Morrissey said one of the biggest obstacles for those living in the community with a mental illness was the stigma associated with the illness.

“This event aimed to demystify mental health, talking broadly about common illnesses and its prevalence in the community, how it affects people and how people can become involved by learning how to deal with someone suffering mental illness,” she said.

Ms Morrissey said that the population in Darwin was unique due to its transient nature and mixture of cultures.

“We have a high proportion of migrants who may have been through the detention centre process, a high Indigenous population, a high population of transient military personnel, mining workers and tourists who often stay longer than a year,” she said. “This means there are also a variety of ways mental health is viewed and dealt with within the community.

“It is vital for the community to talk about this important issue that could be affecting themselves or someone close to them.”

The event included mental health speakers from CDU, local organisations and other mental health Australian leading organisations, to provide information about the help available and how people can assist those living with metal health.