Beyond Blue has launched a landmark national awareness campaign to help Australians recognise the most common  symptoms of anxiety conditions. They recently released a clip last week called I Am Anxiety starring actor Australian-born and internationally acclaimed Ben Mendelsohn to help raise awareness about the symptoms of anxiety and to let people know that help is available.

Ben Mendelsohn who plays anxiety in the clip says, “I’ve been expecting you. Don’t tell me you don’t recognise me.”

“I’m the ill-ease that you feel when you walk into a crowded room. I’m the hot and cold flushes that confuse you when you are already confused enough. I am the one that raises the whip to your already racing heart.

“I am the tightening of your heart, the snowballing worries that feel like they might become an avalanche and bury you in an instant.

“My friend, I am the obsessive and the compulsive. I’m the voice, you know the one, who’s always questioning, questioning, questioning everything you do, everything you think. And I am every single staring eye that watches you and every single one of those places that you try so desperately to avoid”, he says.

This $2 million campaign is the first national anxiety-awareness campaign to target people across Australia and comes as a growing body of research shows the urgent need to educate Australians about this debilitating condition.

Roy Morgan research shows the proportion of Australians aged 18 and over who reported experiencing an anxiety condition in the last 12 months has grown by almost 40% in the last four years. The research showed 13.8%, an estimated 2.44 million Australians, experienced an anxiety condition in the year to December 2012, compared to 9.9% in 2008.

But beyondblue Chairman The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC said despite the high prevalence rate, most Australians are unable to recognise anxiety symptoms and so don’t get help because they do not know they are experiencing a treatable condition.

“Anxiety is even more common than depression with one in four Australians experiencing an anxiety condition at some stage in their lives,” he said. “But while the Roy Morgan data tells us anxiety conditions are a growing problem, separate beyondblue research shows only 12% of Australians view anxiety as a major mental health problem, compared with 58% who view depression as one. So while people increasingly identify as having anxiety, they don’t see it as a major mental health problem. They think ‘being anxious’ is just a part of their personality.”

“An anxiety condition is, of course, different from stress, which everyone experiences occasionally, for example before exams or when giving a speech. But when anxious feelings happen for no apparent reason or continue after a stressful event has passed, it may be a sign of an anxiety condition. Given there are well over two million Australians living with anxiety today, we believe hundreds of thousands of those people are suffering without knowing what the problem is and without getting the treatment they need.”

“The good news is, once they’re recognised, anxiety conditions are very responsive to treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy and relaxation training. There is no need to continue living with these symptoms without support.”

beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO said the campaign, which launches today, aimed to raise awareness of anxiety in the same way beyondblue had raised awareness of depression over the last 12 years. 

“Currently, awareness of anxiety is very low,” she said. “People can spend years dealing with symptoms such as obsessive thoughts, relentless worrying or panic attacks and think it’s just a part of who they are. In fact, they could be living with an undiagnosed anxiety condition that can severely limit their ability to function day to day. This poor understanding subsequently leads many people with an anxiety condition to feel stigmatised, ashamed and confused.”

“We hope by informing Australians about anxiety symptoms, they can identify it, get help and get better. You have to know anxiety to be free from it.”

The short film will be shown in cinemas, on Facebook and YouTube, with the broader Get to Know Anxiety campaign being promoted online and on billboards. It is supported online by the real-life stories of five people who tell how they 
recognised anxiety and overcame it.

To coincide with the campaign launch, beyondblue has published several new fact sheets on anxiety conditions including generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Click below to watch the video starring Ben Mendelsohn as anxiety.

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