Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month puts the spotlight on mental wellbeing

Ahead of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month in May, research released by Crohn’s & Colitis Australia reveals that 1 in 2 Australians living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis experience psychological distress associated with these chronic illnesses. Many people aren’t routinely assessed and lack access to services to support their physical and mental wellbeing.

The survey found 50% of patients reported psychological distress, and 59% of patients agreed that having access to a mental health expert is an important part of managing their Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis collectively called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Yet, only 16% of patients reported being asked about their mental health by their doctor or nurse — and of those patients not asked, 56% indicated that they would have liked to have been.

Associate Professor Leanne Raven, Chief Executive of Crohn’s & Colitis Australia, says that anxiety and depression remain undiagnosed and unsupported in large numbers of patients with IBD.

“Most people have access to specialists for their physical health, such as gastroenterologist, but only 12% have a psychologist in their team and 11% are currently seeing a psychologist,” she explained.

“While Crohn’s and colitis are considered physical diseases, their mental impacts are significant but often left untreated. Our research shows 1 in 2 Australian’s living with Crohn’s or colitis experience significant psychological distress – only 15% of those surveyed were seeing a mental health clinician and because of the invisibility of the disease people around them often won’t realise.

“People who live with IBD often have no visible symptoms, but the conditions can prevent them from working or going out, keeping them socially isolated,” Assoc Prof Raven said.

“The stigma and misunderstanding around these conditions mean thousands of Crohn’s and colitis patients are suffering in silence. That’s why Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month is so important. It’s an opportunity to increase understanding of these diseases and their impacts.”

Crohn’s & Colitis Australia (CCA) reminds all those who have Crohn’s and colitis that sharing concerns about psychological wellbeing is an important step forward in treating all aspects of these diseases.

“Connecting with people who have the condition through support groups, such as those offered by CCA, or speaking about your condition with people you trust is vital to protecting your psychological wellbeing. And if your friend, colleague or family member suffers from Crohn’s or colitis, please show them your support and understanding.

“It is time to flush the stigma associated with these serious illnesses,” said Raven.

May is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month. Throughout May, CCA will help raise awareness of IBD, and encourage the 85,000 Australians diagnosed with Crohn’s and colitis to speak up and seek support now. World IBD Day on Sunday 19 May will see famous landmarks around the world illuminated in purple to raise awareness about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This includes the Colosseum in Rome, Niagara Falls in the United States, and significant landmarks in each capital city and many regional areas in Australia. The 2019 World IBD Day will raise much-needed awareness for these invisible illnesses.

CCA’s Awareness Month is supported by Janssen Australia and New Zealand, Takeda Australia, Aspen GI Health and Emerge Health.

All content is independently produced by Crohn’s & Colitis Australia.

For media enquiries, contact Sally Wood at 0434 442 687