SAW Media Release by MIFA 16 May 2016

MIFA - Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia 

Media Release – Monday May 16th, 2016

People with mental illness and schizophrenia urged to reach out and get help as the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia (MIFA) says it is a national disgrace that the average life expectancy of someone with schizophrenia in Australia is now just … 54 years old.

David Meldrum says at least half a billion dollars is needed to help families around the nation impacted by schizophrenia. 

The long-time health campaigner says it is time this chronic mental illness – which is treatable – got the attention it deserves.  David Meldrum points out schizophrenia seems to be the only major chronic disease where life expectancy seems to be going backwards.  He bluntly warns resources in the field are at a virtual standstill as health professionals try to hang on to the resources they have.

This year’s campaign draws attention to the amazing communities supporting people with this condition … saying we need to hear more about the great positive stories out there … and get many more financial resources out of government to help families impacted.

In the run up to Schizophrenia Awareness Week – which gets under way from Sunday May 15th – the CEO of the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia (MIFA) David Meldrum says it is a national disgrace that the average life expectancy of someone with schizophrenia in Australia is just … 54 years old.

David Meldrum is urging people across Australia with mental health issues to reach out and get the help they need.

David Meldrum has called on the Federal Government to provide half a billion dollars to support people in Australia impacted by schizophrenia … and their families.

He says this is a chronic treatable illness which isn’t getting the attention it deserves.  The long time health campaigner says few new resources are being put into the field … and half a billion dollars would be a good start.

David Meldrum said, “In a country as well resourced as Australia it’s just ridiculous.  This seems to be the only major chronic disease where too many things are going backwards.”

Long-time health campaigner Rob Ramjan – who is also working with the awareness campaign – said, “We can actually reverse the trends.  We can have a real impact on people who are living with schizophrenia.  We want people to talk about their mental health … because treatment is available for mental illness.”

MIFA estimates less that 50% of Australians who have a serious mental illness are actually getting treatment.  David Meldrum says people with mental illness remain unquestionably some of the most socially and economically marginalised members of our community.  He says we are not making progress.

Rob Ramjan added, “Schizophrenia is now impacting on almost 1 in every 23 Australians.  Put another way, it impacts on around 1 million Australians in total.  It is a big issue for our community.  We simply aren’t hearing enough about it.  We urge people to get the help they need.  We have a free service that people can call to find out what’s available in their local area – Mi Networks.”

Rob Ramjan added, “One of the reasons so many people die at such an alarming young age is that people with schizophrenia frequently smoke.  The national smoking rate sits at around 13%.  With schizophrenia it’s around 70%.  Action is clearly needed on this issue.”

A key part of the campaign this year is to highlight that many local communities are doing remarkable things at a grass roots level … however they need more resources and support.  The Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia says there are many remarkably positive supporters and carers making a world of difference to people with schizophrenia.

Rob Ramjan said, “We categorically feel schizophrenia is one of the nation’s most stigmatised mental illnesses.  It is largely treatable.  The myths around schizophrenia are such total nonsense.  Many people with mental illness have a good quality of life.”

“Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder that affects the normal functioning of someone’s brain.  People with this illness do not have a split personality – and treatment is out there.  The fear around schizophrenia is very worrying.  This fear hurts everybody involved.  We have got to get rid of the demonisation around schizophrenia.  It is an illness that can be managed.  A variety of medical and other types of support are available.  We know they work. ”

He says whilst the exact causes of schizophrenia aren’t known, much research is under way to try to identify why it occurs.  Scientists are looking at a protein that appears to be altered in some people’s brains and structural changes have been found in the hippocampus part of the brain with some people with schizophrenia.  Nothing as yet is clear, but in the meantime we know that treatment and social supports makes a huge difference.

MIFA highlights Schizophrenia Awareness Week (from May 15th) is about the positives – the answers and solutions.  It makes no apology for saying schizophrenia has been ignored for too long and needs more funding.

David Meldrum said, “Let’s get rid of the labels and see the person for who they really are.  Recovery is possible.  Our Mi Networks initiative is a free service to help people with support.  Call us whether you live in a city or regional area.”  Just call 1800 985 944 to access Mi Networks or go to minetworks.org.au.

Media enquiries to:  Ross Woodward on 03 9769 6488

Download MIFA Schizophrenia Awareness Week Media Release 16 May 2016 PDF (PDF 334KB)