England’s biggest ever mental health anti-stigma programme, Time to Change, began today with a national media campaign intended to reach 24m people.
The three-year, £18m programme kicks off with a television advert to be shown during Coronation Street on ITV1 tonight.
A month-long advertising blitz by Mind, Rethink and Mental Health Media will continue in newspapers, magazines and the London Underground, with marketing also delivered on posters, beer mats, commercial radio and Facebook.
Media volunteers, including celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax, will attempt to change public attitudes by sharing their experiences of mental illness.
They plan to challenge misconceptions such as the idea that people with mental illness never recover, and are violent and unpredictable.
Anti-stigma events, many involving sport and physical exercise, will bring people with and without mental health problems together in communities across England over the next three years.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, which has provided £16m of the funding – Comic Relief donated the remaining £2m – called it the “most ambitious anti-stigma programme in the world”.
The long-term goal is to end mental health discrimination, but initially progress will be measured against two targets: to reduce discrimination by 5% by 2012, and to create a 5% improvement in public attitudes towards mental health problems.
Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, will interview 1,000 volunteers with mental health problems each year about their experiences in the community, to assess whether these are being met.
The programme, which has the backing of prime minister Gordon Brown, includes training for trainee teachers and doctors, and legal test cases aiming to challenge discrimination through the courts.
Louis Appleby, NHS national director for mental health in England, wrote in the launch booklet: “More than six out of ten employers freely admit they would not recruit someone with a mental health problem. It is high time that society caught up and realised it is not OK to be prejudiced against people with mental health problems.”
Mental health anti-stigma campaign launches
Watch the Time to Change television advert