Independent national charity, SANE Australia, has kicked off Schizophrenia Awareness Week by increasing promotion of their "Signs" advertising campaign. It is aimed at highlighting possible signs of mental illness and encouraging people to get help.
SANE Australia Executive Director Barbara Hocking said it was important to make people more aware of what it meant to be affected by schizophrenia.
"Friends and family are often the first people to notice the changes in behaviour or thinking that can be early signs of mental illness. SANE encourages people to have the confidence to act on their concerns as soon as possible and simplify what can be an overwhelming process by providing clear information and advice," Ms Hocking said.
"We intend to communicate this message through the media and the community and anywhere that raises the issue and gets people thinking about it."
Schizophrenia affects the normal functioning of the brain, interfering with a person’s ability to think, feel and act. Without proper treatment, people with schizophrenia experience hallucinations and are constantly plagued by disordered and confused thinking. Roughly one in a hundred people will develop schizophrenia at some time in their lives, usually in their late teens or early twenties and the causes are not completely understood.
Currently treatment avenues involve a combination of medication and community support.
Schizophrenia awareness week will also involve promotion of the support network that exists for people suffering from schizophrenia. This includes information, accommodation, assistance with finding suitable work, training and education, psychosocial rehabilitation and mutual support groups.
Understanding and acceptance within the community will also be promoted.
Other events for the week include a symposium to discuss mental health reforms and a parliamentary luncheon with professor Cynthia Shannon Welckert of the Schizophrenia Research Institute. Both of these events are supported by the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW.
Ms Hocking said the government was central to raising schizophrenia awareness and providing treatment avenues.
"SANE is always campaigning for effective resources, services and treatments for people affected by mental illness, the government is a key part of that," she said.
Ms Hocking said the SANE website and freecall helpline were available to people who wanted advice from trained advisors about treatment and support or for those who wanted to know more about the signs of schizophrenia.
"The aim of the week is to make people more aware of what it means to be affected by schizophrenia, to encourage people to learn more and lessen the stigma felt by those diagnosed with it."