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This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Public attitudes to mental health have improved but still more to do

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Guest author, Mental health, News

This week, Time to Change released data revealing public attitudes towards mental illness have improved significantly in recent years, with the biggest annual improvement in the last decade taking place in 2013. Sue Baker, the organisation’s director, takes us through the numbers…

Over the last two years, attitudes have improved by 4.8 percent which equates to an estimated two million people in England with improved attitudes towards those of us with mental health problems.

Survey: 83 percent of people now agree that ‘no one has the right to exclude people with a mental illness from their neighbourhood
Survey: 83 percent of people now agree that ‘no one has the right to exclude people with a mental illness from their neighbourhood'

Over the last four years, there have also been significant improvements in behavioural intentions, adding further evidence to the societal change we’ve started to witness. I now firmly believe we are seeing the impact of the momentum built over the last seven years to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.

The latest National Attitudes to Mental Illness survey reveals that between 2012 and 2013 alone there was a 2.8 percent improvement – the biggest shift the survey has ever recorded. Since Time to Change began in 2008 there has been a 6.4 percent shift. The report also shows more people than ever before acknowledge they know someone with a mental health problem (64 percent).

Visualise improved attitudes with this excellent infographic

This robust survey is conducted annually by social research agency TNS BMRB with additional analysis undertaken by the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. A representative sample of 1,700 people are asked to respond to a series of statements to gauge how they think and feel towards the one in four of us who have a mental illness.

There have been notable attitudinal improvements. For example, 83 percent of people now agree that ‘no one has the right to exclude people with a mental illness from their neighbourhood’, whereas only 74 percent agreed in 2008.

Since 2009, we have also asked people about their intended behaviour. This year we saw a marked increase in the proportion of people who say they would be willing to work with, continue a relationship with, live nearby or live with someone with a mental health problem. Here are the percentages:

  • seven percent rise in willingness to “work with someone with a mental health problem” (from 69 percent to 76 percent)
  • six percent rise in willingness to “continue a relationship with a friend with a mental health problem” (from 82 percent to 88 percent)
  • five percent rise in willingness to “live nearby to someone with a mental health problem” (from 72 percent to 77 percent)
  • five percent rise in willingness to “live with someone with a mental health problem” (from 57 percent to 62 percent).

However the data also shows there is still more work to do. Almost half (49 percent) of respondents saying they would feel uncomfortable talking to an employer about their own mental health.

In recent years, we’ve seen thousands of people speak out to tackling stigma by sharing their own experiences using an approach we call social contact. This is face to face conversations between people with and without experience of mental health problems to transform attitudes and undo outdated negative stereotypes.

We’ve seen a strong and powerful movement of people gain in confidence, and last year they challenged two household names (Asda and Tesco) over their Halloween costumes resulting in apologies, withdrawal of products and charity donations. MPs, sportspeople and business leaders have talked openly about their mental health issues, and people are coming forwards from a wider range of communities to speak out, including young people and people from African and Caribbean communities.

In total, 261 employers have signed the Time to Change pledge including all national Government departments, high street banks, retailers, colleges, universities, police forces, energy and telecoms companies, football clubs and local authorities.

We shouldn’t underestimate the task ahead of securing long lasting, irreversible and far-reaching changes in attitudes, behaviour, policies and systems. We will have reached our goal when someone can openly share their diagnosis of depression, schizophrenia or bipolar on a first date or at a job interview without fear of a negative reaction.

We said this was the work of a generation, but we know now that we are witnessing significant change – at long last.

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  1. Comment by Dr Felix Ugwumadu posted on

    Public attitudes to mental health
    People’s tolerance is changing towards mental health. These because it is high on political agenda in order to maintain Law and order in society. The condition has attracted huge investment to contain the illness as well as reducing incidences in the wider community. In the time being, political intervention has helped whilst the investment has yielded good result, purporting a wave of different mind-set. Practically, what is required is a sort of behavioural modification and continuous investment towards mental health care and services.
    In a world where the population is getting older, there is every likely-hood to see mental health as a condition, which the majority of the population may probably suffer in different forms in their life time. Research has shown that mental health disorder to some extent would not prevent some-one from functioning adequately, hence it’s well managed either with a therapy and, or a combination of that and medication. Some people’s behaviours have sifted because of their own experiences of the ill-health and, or they have observed a relative in their own family and are able to accepted their relatives with such conditions.
    On reflection, the growth of older people in the population that have dementia illnesses meant; there is an increase in mental health referrals to social service. This is due to awareness of the disorder and the consequence this has on the person, family and the wider community. The exacerbation in referrals is a form of acceptance and sort of education to the wider public/society to understand what mental health is all about thus, to acknowledge the condition because it has no boundary and could be you tomorrow. .

  2. Comment by Christina Sponias posted on

    I don't think that the acceptance of mental health issues is the solution. I believe that everyone should find valid mental health treatments.

    • Replies to Christina Sponias>

      Comment by Phil posted on

      That's really great public attitudes to mental health. If anybody has mental problems so I would like to say and do agree with Christina's thought. If anybody diagnosed with any kind of mental illness or symptoms so they should consult with any professional. I overcome from depression with the help of Trivedi Effect:

      I suggest anybody should not careless about mental illness.