Sometimes, our faith in human nature can be rewarded. A recently published study by The Lancet Psychiatry Journal seems to show that Time to Change - Mind and Rethink Mental Illness's mental health anti-stigma programme - is having a positive effect on public attitudes. Furthermore, the study posits that mental health stigma and discrimination might have been more prevalent without the campaign.
Considering the current social and economic privations we continue to experience in this country, it's heartening to see some indications that society, at least in some quarters, is resisting the urge to retreat into states of self interest. Indeed, with a little bit of awareness raising, our capacity for empathy, tolerance and understanding is proving to be an enduring set of values.
This particular tracking of public attitudes to mental health has been underway since 2003, predating the Time to Change campaign, but now regularly informing its activity and communications. Around 1700 respondents are surveyed each year with attitudes evaluated in two areas: ‘prejudice and exclusion’ and ‘tolerance and support for community care’.
Findings suggest a significant improvement in attitudes related to prejudice and exclusion.
Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “This is really encouraging further evidence of positive changes in attitudes in England. It is always difficult to estimate where we might have been without the influence of Time to Change and all of our campaign supporters, but this data suggests that we would not have seen these levels of change if the campaign had not been active with social marketing and local events and activity.
“Of course there is a huge amount of work to do until we can confidently say that no one has to face stigma and discrimination because of a mental health problem in any community and in any walk of life.”
A staunch supporter of Time to Change, the Department of Health has also played a significant role in continuing efforts to change attitudes and reduce stigma in mental health. In 2011, we launched 'No health without mental health', a cross-government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages. It espouses the twin aims of keeping people well and improving their mental health and, when not well, improving their health outcomes through high-quality services.
Take a look at the full Lancet article for more details of the survey and do use the comment function beneath this post to let us know if you feel public attitudes are changing for the better.