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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 00:01 GMT
Mentally ill abused by the young
Schizophrenic patient
One in four people experience mental health problems
Six out of ten young people admit verbally abusing the mentally ill, according to a government-backed study.

Out of 500 young people questioned, six out of ten admitted using derogatory terms like "psycho, schizo, nutter or loony" to describe the mentally ill.

And even though they considered racist language to be taboo, only a third felt the terms "psycho and schizo" were unacceptable.

Eighty per cent of the young people questioned said they thought having a mental health problem would lead to discrimination - despite the fact that one in four people suffer mental health problems during their lives.

Young people are critical because the prevalence and severity of mental illness in students is increasing and for too long students affected have faced prejudice and discrimination

Rachel Cashman, of the NUS

And over half of the 16-24 year olds questioned said they would not want anyone else to know that they had mental health problems.

They blamed the media, employers and their peers for the poor treatment of the mentally ill.

Three quarters of young people said they would feel less afraid if they knew more about mental health problems and wanted to know how to learn to be more politically correct when talking about relevant issues.


The government has now pledged to fight discrimination against the mentally ill by re-educating the UK's youth.

Health Minister John Hutton will launch the "Tomorrow's Minds" research study on Monday in partnership with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (NSF).

He said young people were ignorant of mental health problems and had ill-informed opinions based on fear and confusion.

This has led to discrimination, harassment and even physical abuse of the mentally ill.

This is totally unacceptable and must be confronted and challenged

Health Minister John Hutton

Mr Hutton said the 'Mind out for Mental Health' campaign hopes through education to tackle young people's attitudes and make life easier for the mentally ill.

He said: "One in four people in this country will experience a mental health problem of some kind over the course of a year.

"Sixty five per cent of people with a mental health problem have experienced some form of discrimination while almost half have been abused or harassed in public.

"One in seven have been physically attacked.

"This is totally unacceptable and must be confronted and challenged."

Rachel Cashman, NUS vice-president of welfare, said students are facing increasing mental health problems.

She said: "Young people are critical because the prevalence and severity of mental illness in students is increasing and for too long students affected have faced prejudice and discrimination."

Paul Farmer, director of public affairs at the NSF, said the stigma of mental health problems has to be eliminated.

"It's the fear of discrimination that perpetuates the stigma of having a mental health problem that we are working with 'Mind out for Mental Health' to combat."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said that the way health services treated the mentally ill, as well as the lack of public understanding had to be tackled.

"There have been many such campaigns before but, while young people who breakdown with mental health problems are still left neglected or shunted from one inadequate service to another, while there is so little decent in-patient care and places in the community providing meaningful activity, money spent on posters and pins will be wasted. "

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12 Mar 01 | Health
'How I coped with mental abuse'
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Tougher controls for mentally ill
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Mental health: Reaction
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