Mental health education vital to curbing worrying trend

Panellists Glenn Mitchell, Andrew Duirs, Eric Dillon, Dr David Mortley and Liz Williams interact with audience members at Notre Dame's Mental Health Forum.

14 May 2014

Raising awareness of mental health issues and breaking down barriers to seeking treatment could decrease the number of Australians living with this illness, according to panellists at a recent forum held at The University of Notre Dame Australia's Fremantle Campus.

The University, in collaboration with Notre Dame Students for Social Justice (NDSSJ), hosted a Mental Health Forum on Wednesday 30 April 2014 which was attended by Notre Dame students, staff and members of the public.

Moderated by former ABC sports broadcaster and mental health advocate, Glenn Mitchell, the forum panellists comprised Head of Counselling Services at Notre Dame, Andrew Duirs; Director, Strategic Policy and Planning, Mental Health Commission of Western Australia, Eric Dillon; General Practitioner and former lecturer in Notre Dame's School of Medicine, Dr David Mortley; and June O'Connor Centre member, Liz Williams.

Questions from the public to the panellists created productive dialogue on how to tackle symptoms of depression and other mental health problems, which provided a compelling insight into the state of mental health in Australia and the nation's approach to mental health treatment.

Some of the mental health issues discussed during the forum included individual vulnerability; one's yearning for love and acceptance; measures to counter the high suicide rate in men; cultural issues for international students to prevent cases of isolation and inferiority; and the need to education children about mental health from an early age.

Responses to these questions were based on a series of worrying statistics on the impact of mental health issues on Australian individuals, families and communities.

  • 20 per cent of Australians aged between 16 and 85 suffer a mental health condition each year
  • 45 per cent of Australians will suffer from a mental health issue in their lives
  • 65 per cent of Australians don't seek assistance for a mental health case
  • At the end of this year, the largest cause of death in men under the age of 40 will be suicide
  • For every suicide recorded equates to 30 attempts

Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Relations, in the Fremantle School of Arts & Sciences, Dr Martin Drum, said he was pleased with the in-depth discussion that took place covering a broad range of issues.

"This is an extremely significant issue affecting many individuals and groups in our community so we feel that raising this awareness in an open forum is a great way of highlighting and developing pathways to overcome mental health problems," Dr Drum said.

"We hope to build on this event and host similar forums like this one in the future."

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;