HAVING a mental illness is a bigger barrier to employment in Australia than a physical disability, according to a new study.
Research commissioned as part of Mental Health Week, which began yesterday, revealed a stigma around hiring people with a mental illness - half the respondents said they could be unreliable and disruptive at work.
At the last census, one in five people said they had been affected by a mental illness in the previous year.
The research highlighted a widespread negative view of mental illness that did not match reality, said Matthew Lambelle from the not-for-profit employment services provider WISE, which commissioned the report.
He said a lack of understanding caused some people to avoid hiring people with a mental illness.
The study found an assumption that mental illness inhibited job performance. ''In fact the two are not linked,'' Mr Lambelle said.