National missing persons coordination centre

Missing Persons and Mental Health

The link between mental health and missing persons

Research has identified that one of the factors that contributes to people going missing is the impact of mental health on a person’s ability to cope with life. We work in partnership with a number of mental health organisations to educate the Australian community about the link between mental health and missing persons. We do this with a view to alleviating the trauma experienced by those people living with a mental illness, their families and friends, and to reduce the incidence of people going missing due to mental health issues.

People experiencing poor mental health have numerous triggers that may result in them going missing, these include:

  • frustrations with health professionals
  • opposing ideas with loved ones about how to address a mental health issue
  • uncertainty about who or how to ask for help
  • or a sense that there are no alternatives but to go missing.

Some people go missing for a short period of time, some may go missing time and time again, whilst others disappear for the long term – increasing the risk of harming themselves or being harmed by someone else.

There is a persistent stigma within the community of acknowledging that mental health is a community health issue. Both the missing person and those who are left behind can feel that they have little support available to them.

One of the keys to preventing people with mental health issues from going missing is to provide them with alternative options. Communication is part of presenting those options, whether it is between you and your loved one, or the ability for your loved one to receive the professional assistance they need to better cope with life.

Learn to see the signs

Someone you know could be suffering from a mental health issue and may be at risk of going missing. Signs include:

  • talking about feeling very down and nothing can help
  • often being tearful or overly sensitive
  • losing interest in day-to-day activities
  • no longer reaching out to family and friends and isolating themselves

If someone you know is suffering from a mental health issue your understanding and support may prevent them from becoming a missing person.

Getting help

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call Lifeline (24 hours): 13 11 14.

healthdirect Australia: if you have a non-urgent health concern and you’re not sure what to do, call 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Contact details for other agencies offering information, resources and support services are available on our Support services page.

  • View the Missing persons and mental health factsheet
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