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Wednesday, 13 October, 1999, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Mentally ill subjected to abuse
Black school children
Will racial discrimination influence these children's mental health?
Three quarters of mental health workers say their patients have been verbally abused and a third have been physically assaulted, surveys have found.

Mental Health
Two surveys for the Health Education Authority (HEA) show that many mental health patients have suffered discrimination and almost all mental health workers believe it plays a role in mental illness.

The surveys are part of a campaign for World Mental Health Day on 10 October - the first to make a direct link between mental health and discrimination.

Health workers said two-thirds of their patients had been discriminated against because of their race and a third because of their medical history.

Ageism and homophobia also affected mental health, the psychiatrists, community psychiatric nurses and primary care specialists said.

Two-thirds of mental health workers said their patients had suffered discrimination in the workplace or trying to find work.

More than half had been discriminated against by health workers and a third had encountered problems when trying to find a place to live.


Health workers felt discrimination worsened mental health.

Gay men
Gay and bisexual men are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide
They said it lowered self-esteem, increased their patients' feelings of social isolation and caused depression.

Around half said it led their patients to misuse drugs or alcohol and caused suicidal feelings.

For most patients counselling was effective in dealing with their illness and 60% said voluntary or self-help groups had helped them.

This compared with 48% who said their patients had found medicine useful.

Mental health workers want better public education about mental health and 13% think anti-discrimination laws need to be enforced more strictly.

Who is normal?

The World Mental Health Day campaign will be marked in more than 100 countries. In the UK, it will include a poster campaign, entitled Who is normal?, which is backed by the Commission for Racial Equality, Age Concern, Stonewall, mental health charities and celebrities like Anthea Turner.

The HEA says everyone should challenge discrimination wherever they encounter it.

It also wants employers to develop mental health policies to educate people about mental illness.

The authority says schools should introduce anti-bullying policies, including policies against harassment and abuse.

And the NHS and local authorities should ensure services are accessible to everyone in their community.


Around one in seven people suffers from mental illness in the UK. This includes as many as a quarter of all children.

Old people
Old people are more likely to suffer from depression than the young
The HEA says mental health problems cost the country around 31.1bn a year in NHS costs, suicide, carers and days off work.

A study by the Policy Studies Institute found that one in six people from ethnic minorities had experienced racial abuse at work.

Research shows gay and bisexual men are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual men.

Older people are 69% more likely to suffer from mild depression than the general population because of isolation and low self-esteem.

See also:

29 Jul 98 | Latest News
Government committed to community care
29 Jul 98 | Latest News
'Third way' for mental health
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