Time to Change hails progress in mental health attitudes

The Time to Change campaign to tackle prejudice against people with mental health problems has claimed public attitudes may have turned a corner after a Department of Health survey published today showed improvements.

The poll of 1,751 adults in England showed attitudes to people with mental health problems had improved on a number of measures:-

  • Almost three-quarters (73%) agreed that people with mental health problems should have the same rights to a job as anyone else, an increase from 66% in 2008.
  • Seventy two per cent felt mental health services should as far as possible be provided through community-based facilities, up from 72% in 2008.
  • Seventy nine per cent felt people with mental illness should not be excluded from their neighbourhoods, up from 74% in 2008.
  • Sixty one per cent of people agreed that people with a mental illness are far less of a danger than most people suppose, up from 57% in 2008.

Time for Change, a campaign led by mental health charities Mind and Rethink which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief, said the findings suggested a 15-year deterioration in attitudes towards people with mental illness may have ended.

Prejudices ‘starting to shift’

Director Sue Baker said: “Attitudes towards mental health issues are finally beginning to move in the right direction. Deep-seated prejudices are starting to shift and it’s a further sign that we are heading towards a tipping point in England and that there is a real appetite for change.

She added: “Our challenge is to turn attitudinal change into behavioural change to reduce the incidents of discrimination that are still so widely reported by people with mental health problems.”

Negative findings

However, Time for Change pointed to some more negative findings from the DH survey.

In 2009, 11% of people said they would not want to live next door to someone with a mental health problem, an increase from 8% in 1994 when the annual attitudes survey began. And 18% of people thought that one of the main causes of mental illness was lack of self-discipline and willpower – up from 14% last year.

Reduction in tolerance

And the proportion who agreed we needed to adopt a more tolerant attitude towards people with mental health problems was 85% in 2009, compared with 92% in 1994.

Care services minister Phil Hope said: “There’s no question that even now in the 21st century, prejudiced and outdated attitudes to mental health problems still exist, leading to discrimination and social exclusion. But this survey shows that some attitudes are starting to change for the better.”

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