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Research indicates the stigmatisation of mental illness as one of the key reasons that many people do not seek professional help when they are experiencing mental health difficulties. Here we explore the issue of destigmatisation and how teachers can address stigma through classroom activities.

This page includes information on:

  • destigmatising mental health
  • classroom activities to address destigmatisation.
Girl with purple hair in white school uniform

How to destigmatise mental health difficulties through education

In the average Year 12 classroom:

  • 7 will have experienced a mental health disorder
  • at least 1 young person will have attempted suicide
  • only 2 of those 7 will have sought professional help
  • for those who do seek help it can take at least 5-15 years to access it.

Why do so few young people access professional help? Many people in the mental health sector believe that a key reason is the stigma that is still associated with having a mental health disorder.

The key to reducing the stigma attached to mental illness is education. If we can raise awareness amongst all Australians of the nature of mental health disorders - increasing awareness of the symptoms, causes and treatments of mental illnesses and by promoting the experiences of people whose lives have been affected by mental illness we will go a long way to reducing the negative perception of mental illness.

Practical Lesson Ideas

Mental health continuum activity

This activity is a great introduction to explore students’ values and beliefs in relation to mental health and to then explore the dynamic nature of mental health.

Busting the myths

This activity explores some of the common myths or negative perceptions held by some in the community about people who are experiencing mental health difficulties. This is one of the activities from the Heads Up: Skills for life resource.

This activity involves exploring and small group work to dispel the myths and misconceptions about mental illness.

Developing mental health literacy skills

Teachers need to support students in developing the skills to become discerning consumers of internet health information. This activity from the Heads Up: Skills for life resource allows students to develop critical health literacy skills and practical strategies for assessing online health information.

Next steps