The prevalence of hepatitis C in people with mental illness is higher than it is in the general population, but recent medical advances present an opportunity to change this. The Change of Mind campaign encourages people who live with hep C and who also experience mental health issues to learn why now is an excellent time to be treated for hep C.
Hepatitis NSW is working with organisations from across the sector to promote three specific messages:
- Hep C is higher among people with diagnosed mental health issues
- The good news is that hep C can be easily treated, and cured
- Even more good news: curing hep C can have multiple health benefits, including mental health benefits
New Direct Acting Antiviral (DAA) drugs with very high cure rates (95%) can now cure hep C in as little as 8-12 weeks. These DAAs are all tablets and have minimal side-effects – they replaced previous hep C drugs that caused or exacerbated mental health side-effects, including depression and psychosis.
Out-dated views about hep C treatment mean that people living with both hep C and mental illness may be wary about starting treatment – but they do not need to be, as the new DAAs are not contraindicated for people with mental health issues.
The benefits of treating, and curing, hep C are considerable, in avoiding liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure, and providing a range of other health benefits. Even people who don’t have noticeable symptoms benefit from treatment with many reporting having more energy and a new lease on life.
More than 30,000 Australians started hep C treatment in 2016 alone. Now that safe and effective treatments are available, there is no reason why people living with both hep C and mental illness should miss out on these benefits.