Self-reported discriminatory and positive behaviours towards people with mental health problems: findings from an Australian national survey Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE:The aim of the study was to explore self-reported avoidance, discrimination, and positive treatment by members of the public towards people with mental health problems. METHODS:In 2014, telephone interviews were carried out with 5220 Australians aged 18 +. Respondents were asked if they had known an adult with a mental health problem over the previous 12 months. If they had, they were asked further questions about the person's age, gender, relationship to the respondent, and their mental health problem. Respondents were then asked if they had avoided, discriminated against or treated the person more positively and, if so, some details about what happened. RESULTS:19.9% of respondents reported avoiding someone with a mental health problem, with the most common reasons being difficulty tolerating the person's behaviour and needing time out. However, respondents were more likely to report treating the person with mental health problems more positively (73.0%) than avoiding or discriminating against them (4.7%). The most common positive behaviours were non-specific support and maintaining or increasing contact. Avoidance was less likely from friends and those aged 60 +. Discrimination was more likely from family members and spouses and less likely from respondents aged 60 +. Positive treatment was more likely from people who had experienced a mental health problem. CONCLUSIONS:This study provides insight into the reasons why people avoid others with mental health problems. The results can provide input into the design of anti-discrimination interventions and further empower people with mental health problems as they advocate for change in the area of discrimination.


publication date

  • 2018