Recommendations relating to Public and Recreational Spaces

Everyone should be able to enjoy public spaces and participation in recreational activities. These are key ingredients people feeling connected and part of their community. Sadly, many respondents reported perceived or anticipated stigma in relation to this area of their life, indicating that there is much work to be done to ensure the places where people come together are inclusive for all.

Survey participants reported a range of experiences, including being unfairly treated by hospitality and public transport staff, denied service at public spaces or events, and in some instances, denied entry. Participants’ qualitative comments highlighted numerous instances of unfair treatment (particularly unwanted attention or negative reactions) in relation to aspects of complex mental health issues that are visible to others (for example, the use of a service dog or self-harm scars). 


"If you're recognised in public as someone with a mental illness they might point and laugh at you, which is an experience of stigma and discrimination that I've had. If you're not recognised, then you can be another normal person in the crowd and go about your business."     

– Our Turn to Speak participant, New South Wales


While reducing stigma and discrimination was introduced in 2017 as a priority target area for the Fifth National Mental and Suicide Prevention Plan, the findings of the survey suggest that many people living with complex mental health issues continue to experience discrimination in public spaces. Participants’ experiences include avoidance or unwanted attention from members of the general public, and retail, hospitality, events and public transport staff refusing to assist them. Such instances of stigma and discrimination are known to compound the isolation of people affected by complex mental health issues, and ultimately compromises their psychosocial recovery – a key facilitator of which is social connectedness and participation. 

Improved education and evidence-based, anti-stigma interventions designed to improve the public’s understanding of, and compassion towards, those who experience complex mental health issues is required. This is particularly relevant to sectors where high levels of stigma and discrimination are reported, such as hospitality and public transport. More broadly, mechanisms that can increase participation across public spaces and events are needed. This includes working with local councils, mental health psychosocial services and event organisers to improve access for people affected by complex mental health issues. The high rates of withdrawal from opportunity endorsed by participants unfortunately suggests this aspect of their psychosocial recovery is at risk, and demand change.


Recommendations for action 

  1. Increase training about the needs of people affected by complex mental health issues for public transport leaders and staff.
  2. Increase accessibility of public spaces and recreational activities for people affected by complex mental health issues by providing funding opportunities through psychosocial services and allowing a support person (or animal) to attend.