Stories of friendship, acceptance and social inclusion are being shared in a new report released by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).
Stories of Success is the latest publication the MHF has produced in association with the Like Minds, Like Mine national programme to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.
The report focuses on how people living with mental illness have experienced social inclusion, and reveals the powerful role friends, whānau, employers and others play in their recovery.
Hugh Norriss, MHF Director of Policy and Development, says social inclusion is “a basic human need, and a right”.
“Stories of Success highlights how important being socially included is for people experiencing mental illness, and for all New Zealanders,” Mr Norriss says.
“Being excluded can increase the distress for people who are already going through a tough time, and make the recovery journey much harder.”
Individuals and focus groups, which included young adults, Māori and Pacific people, were interviewed for the study.
Many participants spoke positively about how being included in community and social activities, and having access to employment and good housing, boosted their self-esteem.
However, one of the major barriers to social inclusion identified was the negative labels and stereotypes attributed to people with mental health problems.
“Research shows that people who access mental health services and are socially excluded have higher mortality rates,” Mr Norriss says.
“By increasing the options for social inclusion, people experiencing mental illness are able to live fuller, happier lives and find the support they need.”
The publication of Stories of Success is timely given the direction of the new Like Minds, Like Mine National Plan 2014–2019, which has signalled social inclusion as a key priority area.
“The examples given in this report will help to inspire other people living with mental illness and show communities that what they do makes a difference,” Mr Norriss says.