Overcoming stigma in public and recreational spaces

As the weather warms up, Australians are lucky to have many outdoor public spaces to enjoy the weather! Being able to spend time in parks, malls, public transport and city centres, is a great way to enjoy, or escape the weather but also to be participate in our communities. Feeling safe in public spaces helps us build connections and a sense of belonging. For people with lived experience of a complex mental health issue, this is key to recovery. 

According to SANE’s "National Stigma Report Card" survey, many people living with complex mental health do not always feel safe in public spaces. Over half of respondents to the survey said they had experienced some level of stigma or discrimination in public or recreational spaces in the last 12 months. One respondent explained that they are worried about being "recognised" in public as someone with complex mental health because they had experienced times when strangers would point and laugh at them. Others shared stories of being treated unfairly by hospitality or public transport staff, even being denied entry to public events. These experiences of discrimination can compound feelings of isolation, and ultimately compromise people's recovery journey. 

The report recommended two main ways to better include and support people participating in public spaces in a way which makes them feel valued and safe. 

First, public transport workers need to be trained about the needs of people with lived experience. This training should be trauma-informed, take a strengths-based approach, be informed by and centre the stories of people with lived experience. It's also a priority to improve literacy on the full continuum of mental health needs of the wider public. 

Second, funding and resources should be allocated to make public and recreational spaces more accessible to people with lived experience. This can be done by supporting psychosocial services and even making it more accessible to support people and support animals accompanying someone in these spaces. 

Flourish Australia provides strength-based approaches to socialising and being out and about in our communities. We offer a range of support to people on their recovery journey. 

Read Tamar's inspiring story about how she found her community, or how Blue Mountains Steiner School generous donation means the Katoomba team will gather together for a Christmas lunch at a local restaurant

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