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Transcript from Understanding Mental Illness DVD, Social costs, Introduction, Video 4 of 18

The fallout from mental illness, both for the sufferer and the wider community, is examined in this video clip. Those living with a mental illness often face difficulties in the work place and are socially isolated.


PROFESSOR GORDON PARKER (Executive Director-The Black Dog Institute): The social costs are direct and indirect. The direct costs are associated with the inability to work, loss of income, cost of medication and hospitalisation.

LYNNE (Living with a mental illness): It’s difficult in the work place to have a mental illness. It’s really different from a physical illness. People don’t understand that you can’t just shake yourself out of something.

JOHN CAMPBELL (President, State Council St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland): A major number of people with a mental illness, providing they’re getting their medication on a regular basis, are able to work. Unfortunately because of our present system, that perhaps doesn’t help them the way it should, a lot of them are not working.

PETER SCHAECKEN (Consumer Consultant, Sydney South West Area, Mental Health Service, Eastern Zone): They sacked me from a job because I was off work for so long, which is completely illegal now to sack someone – a person with a mental illness because of a mental illness.

DR BOB SERICH (Chair, National Mental Health and Homelessness Advisory Committee): These people have lost their skills, lost their confidence, lost their self esteem.

PETER SCHAECKEN: Like how do you explain to an employer that you spent nine months in a psychiatric hospital?

LYNNE: I often had to take on casual positions, and as a casual worker you’re not respected in the same way that full time workers are and you usually don’t get the supervision that the other workers get. You’re thrown in the deep end with little training then you’re often used as scapegoat.

PROFESSOR PARKER: The indirect costs are the social ones, the inability to form a relationship, to maintain a relationship, to feel that you’re an effective parent.

DR SERICH: People with chronic mental illness burn out their families. Friends don’t come to visit them and so forth and apart from going to Centrelink and the mental health service and the Public Trust if they’re under the Public Trust, that’s about the only contacts and occasionally, maybe a parent might come to visit them on a special day. And its organisation like St Vincent de Paul who have people who do go out to visit, who can be sort of approach when there’s someone who’s having problems in the community, for someone to visit. Then this is their lifeline. It’s their lifeline.

JOHN CAMPBELL: Mental illness in the country of course is a little bit different perhaps and it’s not as obvious as it is in the city, however it’s still there. And the main one I guess its starts off as depression. People, because of the situation, they don’t see where the next shower of rain is going to come from and that’s their livelihood, they then become really depressed. A lot of them are single people who live on their own, men in particular. Some of the men, younger men in particular are really troubled by this, so they’ve got nobody to talk to, nobody to turn to.

PROFESSOR PARKER: One of the interesting findings in regard to the disability associated with depression is that it’s not… the majority of it does not come from people not being able to go work. The majority of it actually comes from people who can go to work but can’t fire up, can’t concentrate and they find that their depression impairs their day-to-day functioning.

LYNNE: Yeah they can’t really understand. Why can’t this person motivate themselves to get to work?  What are they doing? Are they being lazy? And it’s far from laziness. I think you know it’s more about that – not having any motivatoion or any confidence to go about your daily tasks. I mean your confidence just plummets.

PROFESSOR PARKER: So we see very, very severe acute effects on social functioning but there’s also this slow drip, drip effect of the mental illness and the collateral damage effects that creep through year after year and because so many mental illnesses come on at a young age you can see why they’re so impairing.

DR SERICH: Mental illness is not a nine to five, Monday to Friday problem. Neither is drug and alcohol use but yet we have, and have had for 20 years, a Community Mental Health Service that operates nine to five, Monday to Friday. And we have an Alcohol and Drug Authority, which also operates nine to five, Monday to Friday.

JOHN KONRADS (Former Olympic swimmer): The tide is turning in our favour, yes I’ll say our favour, and things are getting better but they’ll never be perfect. Were under resourced, Beyond Blue says mental illness causes around 20 per cent of the total economic loss to the nation and only gets eight per cent of the health resources, of the health funds or the health funding from the government. Whatever the figures may be, it will always be the case.

JOHN CAMPELL: [For] Some Vincentians – mental illness is something that their frightened of – or is something that they wouldn’t know how to handle and wouldn’t want to handle. So in cases of that nature you’ve got to find somebody else that is prepared to go out and visit these people. Now if it’s not the local Vincentians you go and get one from a Conference next door who’s had some experience with it. But I think the major thing to remember is that people with mental illness are not necessarily dangerous. In fact, I’d say 95 per cent of cases they are not dangerous at all. All they need usually is someone to talk to and someone to help them and that’s where Vincentians come to the fore.


About Vinnies

St Vincent de Paul Society is a lay Catholic organisation working towards a more just and compassionate society.

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