Skip to main content Accessibility help

Disclosure of mental health problems: findings from an Australian national survey

  • N. J. Reavley (a1), A. J. Morgan (a1) (a2) and A. F. Jorm (a1)



The aim of the current study was to carry out a national population-based survey to assess the proportion of people disclosing mental health problems in a variety of settings. A further aim was to explore respondent characteristics associated with disclosure.


In 2014, telephone interviews were carried out with 5220 Australians aged 18+, 1381 of whom reported a mental health problem or scored highly on a symptom screening questionnaire. Questions covered disclosure of mental health problems to friends, intimate partners, other family members, supervisors or other colleagues in the workplace, teachers, lecturers or other students in the educational institution, health professionals and others in the community. Other than for intimate partners or supervisors, participants were asked whether or not they told everybody, some people or no one. Multinomial logistic regression was used to model the correlates of disclosure in each setting.


For friends and family, respondents were more likely to disclose to some people than to everyone or to no one. In most other domains, non-disclosure was most common, including in the workplace, where non-disclosure to supervisors was more likely than disclosure. Disclosure was associated with having received treatment or with support in all settings except healthcare, while it was only associated with discrimination in two settings (healthcare and education).


Disclosure of mental health problems does not appear to be linked to discrimination in most settings, and is typically associated with receiving support. Selective or non-disclosure may be particularly critical in workplaces, education and healthcare settings.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: N. J. Reavley, Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, 207 Bouverie Street, VIC 3010, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. (Email:


Hide All
Alonso, J, Buron, A, Bruffaerts, R, He, Y, Posada-Villa, J, Lepine, JP, Angermeyer, MC, Levinson, D, de Girolamo, G, Tachimori, H, Mneimneh, ZN, Medina-Mora, ME, Ormel, J, Scott, KM, Gureje, O, Haro, JM, Gluzman, S, Lee, S, Vilagut, G, Kessler, RC, Von Korff, M, World Mental Health, C (2008). Association of perceived stigma and mood and anxiety disorders: results from the World Mental Health Surveys. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 118, 305314.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014 a). ABS Census 2011 Table Builder. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014 b). Estimated Resident Population March 2014. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Canberra.
Australian Communication and Media Authority (2014). Communications Report 2013–14. Australian Communication and Media Authority: Canberra.
Bos, AE, Kanner, D, Muris, P, Janssen, B, Mayer, B (2009). Mental illness stigma and disclosure: consequences of coming out of the closet. Issues in Mental Health Nursing 30, 509513.
Brohan, E, Henderson, C, Little, K, Thornicroft, G (2010). Employees with mental health problems: survey of U.K. employers’ knowledge, attitudes and workplace practices. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale 19, 326332.
Brohan, E, Henderson, C, Wheat, K, Malcolm, E, Clement, S, Barley, EA, Slade, M, Thornicroft, G (2012). Systematic review of beliefs, behaviours and influencing factors associated with disclosure of a mental health problem in the workplace. BMC Psychiatry 12, 11.
Brohan, E, Evans-Lacko, S, Henderson, C, Murray, J, Slade, M, Thornicroft, G (2014). Disclosure of a mental health problem in the employment context: qualitative study of beliefs and experiences. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences 23, 289300.
Brown, S, Inskip, H, Barraclough, B (2000). Causes of the excess mortality of schizophrenia. British Journal of Psychiatry 177, 212217.
Corker, E, Hamilton, S, Henderson, C, Weeks, C, Pinfold, V, Rose, D, Williams, P, Flach, C, Gill, V, Lewis-Holmes, E, Thornicroft, G (2013). Experiences of discrimination among people using mental health services in England 2008–2011. British Journal of Psychiatry. Supplement 55, s58s63.
Corrigan, P (2004). How stigma interferes with mental health care. American Psychologist 59, 614625.
Corrigan, PW, Rao, D (2012). On the self-stigma of mental illness: stages, disclosure, and strategies for change. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 57, 464469.
Corrigan, PW, Morris, SB, Michaels, PJ, Rafacz, JD, Rusch, N (2012). Challenging the public stigma of mental illness: a meta-analysis of outcome studies. Psychiatric Services 63, 963973.
Corrigan, PW, Michaels, PJ, Powell, K, Bink, A, Sheehan, L, Schmidt, A, Apa, B, Al-Khouja, M (2016). Who comes out with their mental illness and how does it help? Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 204, 163168.
Ellison, ML, Russinova, Z, MacDonald-Wilson, KL, Lyass, A (2003). Patterns and correlates of workplace disclosure among professionals and managers with psychiatric conditions. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 18, 313.
Friedrich, B, Evans-Lacko, S, London, J, Rhydderch, D, Henderson, C, Thornicroft, G (2013). Anti-stigma training for medical students: the Education Not Discrimination project. British Journal of Psychiatry. Supplement 55, s89s94.
Griffiths, KM, Carron-Arthur, B, Parsons, A, Reid, R (2014). Effectiveness of programs for reducing the stigma associated with mental disorders. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. World Psychiatry 13, 161175.
Harangozo, J, Reneses, B, Brohan, E, Sebes, J, Csukly, G, Lopez-Ibor, JJ, Sartorius, N, Rose, D, Thornicroft, G (2014). Stigma and discrimination against people with schizophrenia related to medical services. International Journal of Social Psychiatry 60, 359366.
Henderson, C, Williams, P, Little, K, Thornicroft, G (2013). Mental health problems in the workplace: changes in employers’ knowledge, attitudes and practices in England 2006–2010. British Journal of Psychiatry. Supplement 55, s70s76.
Holborn, AT, Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF (2012). Differences between landline and mobile-only respondents in a dualframe mental health literacy survey. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 36, 192193.
Hu, SS, Balluz, L, Battaglia, MP, Frankel, MR (2011). Improving public health surveillance using a dual-frame survey of landline and cell phone numbers. American Journal of Epidemiology 173, 703711.
Kessler, RC, Green, JG, Gruber, MJ, Sampson, NA, Bromet, E, Cuitan, M, Furukawa, TA, Gureje, O, Hinkov, H, Hu, CY, Lara, C, Lee, S, Mneimneh, Z, Myer, L, Oakley-Browne, M, Posada-Villa, J, Sagar, R, Viana, MC, Zaslavsky, AM (2010). Screening for serious mental illness in the general population with the K6 screening scale: results from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) survey initiative. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research 19 (Suppl. 1), 422.
Lasalvia, A, Zoppei, S, Van Bortel, T, Bonetto, C, Cristofalo, D, Wahlbeck, K, Vasseur Bacle, S, Van Audenhove, C, van Weeghel, J, Reneses, B, Germanavicius, A, Economou, M, Lanfredi, M, Ando, S, Sartorius, N, Lopez-Ibor, JJ, G., T, Group, AIS (2012). Global pattern of experienced and anticipated discrimination reported by people with major depressive disorder: a cross-sectional survey. Lancet 381, 5562.
Link, BG, Struening, EL, Rahav, M, Phelan, JC, Nuttbrock, L (1997). On stigma and its consequences: evidence from a longitudinal study of men with dual diagnoses of mental illness and substance abuse. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 38, 177190.
Morgan, AJ, Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF, Beatson, R (2016). Experiences of discrimination and positive treatment from health professionals: a national survey of adults with mental health problems. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 50, 754762.
Pandya, A, Bresee, C, Duckworth, K, Gay, K, Fitzpatrick, M (2011). Perceived impact of the disclosure of a schizophrenia diagnosis. Community Mental Health Journal 47, 613621.
Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF (2015). Experiences of discrimination and positive treatment in people with mental health problems: findings from an Australian national survey. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 49, 906913.
Reavley, NJ, Ross, A, Killackey, EJ, Jorm, AF (2012). Development of guidelines to assist organisations to support employees returning to work after an episode of anxiety, depression or a related disorder: a Delphi consensus study with Australian professionals and consumers. BMC Psychiatry 12, 135.
Reavley, NJ, Ross, AM, Killackey, E, Jorm, AF (2013). Development of guidelines for tertiary education institutions to assist them in supporting students with a mental illness: a Delphi consensus study with Australian professionals and consumers. PeerJ 1, e43.
Reavley, NJ, Morgan, AJ, Jorm, AF (2016). Discrimination and positive treatment towards people with mental health problems in workplace and education settings: findings from an Australian national survey. Stigma and Health (in press).
Silton, NR, Flannelly, KJ, Milstein, G, Vaaler, ML (2011). Stigma in America: has anything changed?: impact of perceptions of mental illness and dangerousness on the desire for social distance: 1996 and 2006. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 199, 361366.
Stuart, H, Patten, SB, Koller, M, Modgill, G, Liinamaa, T (2014). Stigma in Canada: results from a rapid response survey. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 59, S27S33.
Thornicroft, G, Brohan, E, Rose, D, Sartorius, N, Leese, M (2009). Global pattern of experienced and anticipated discrimination against people with schizophrenia: a cross-sectional survey. Lancet 373, 408415.
Wahl, OF (1999). Mental health consumers’ experience of stigma. Schizophrenia Bulletin 25, 467478.
Walker, ER, McGee, RE, Druss, BG (2015). Mortality in mental disorders and global disease burden implications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry 72, 334341.
Wright, A, Jorm, AF, Mackinnon, AJ (2011). Labeling of mental disorders and stigma in young people. Social Science and Medicine 73, 498506.
Yap, MBH, Mackinnon, AJ, Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF (2014). The measurement properties of stigmatising attitudes towards mental disorders: results from two community surveys. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research 23, 4961.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed