Mental Illness Fellowship of WA says more funding needed to fight schizophrenia

Monique Williamson (CEO Mental Illness Fellowship WA). Monique wants the stigma of schizophrenia to decrease after studies show that the life expectancy of people living with the mental illness is 54 years old. Photo: David Baylis
Monique Williamson (CEO Mental Illness Fellowship WA). Monique wants the stigma of schizophrenia to decrease after studies show that the life expectancy of people living with the mental illness is 54 years old. Photo: David Baylis

THE average life expectancy of people with schizophrenia in Australia is “absolutely shameful”, according to Mental Illness Fellowship of WA (MIFWA) chief executive Monique Williamson.

Ms Williamson, from the Midland-based non-profit support service, said the average life expectancy of Australians with schizophrenia was 54 years old and declining due to the stigma surrounding the condition.

“It is absolutely shameful that people with schizophrenia are 12 times more likely to die from suicide than the general population,” she said.

“Sixty-eight per cent of people with psychosis have not participated in any social activities in the previous year; citing experiences and fear of stigma, social anxiety and mental illness as barriers to their participation.

“We all have to do more as a community to support people with this complex condition.”

According to MIFWA, about 230,000 Australians have schizophrenia and when families were included, one million people were impacted by the mental illness.

Ms Williamson said the problem started with the myths around schizophrenia, including thinking people with schizophrenia had a split personality.

“Our role is to eliminate these myths,” she said.

“People with ‘split’ or multiple personalities have a different condition, called Dissociative Identity Disorder,” she said.

“Schizophrenia is a complex brain order that affects the normal functioning of a person’s brain.

“It actively interferes with the person’s ability to think, feel and act.”

Ms Williamson said some people could recover from schizophrenia, given the correct support and treatment.

MIFA chief executive Tony Stevenson said government funding for mental health services, including for people with schizophrenia was “grossly inadequate” to enable people to recover.

He said that a minimum of half a billion dollars in Federal Government funding needed to be allocated to help families impacted by schizophrenia, and other people living with mental illness, the support they needed.

According to MIFWA, signs that someone may have schizophrenia include social withdrawal, hallucinations, lack of motivation, delusions, lack of insight, inappropriate responses and impaired thinking and memory.

To get support:

– Make a free call to 1800 985 944

– Visit minetworks.org.au

People with schizophrenia are:

12 times more likely to die from suicide than the general population;

Die up to 19 years earlier than the rest of the population;

Average life expectancy is 54 years old; and

22.4 per cent of people with psychosis – almost 1 in 4 – reported feeling isolated and lonely.

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