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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
Bid to end mental health stigma
One in six people suffer from mental illness
The government has launched an ambitious plan to try to change people's attitudes to mental illness.

Ministers have pledged to take action to improve attitudes in the NHS, the media and the community.

It follows an investigation into the experiences of people with mental illness by the government's social exclusion unit.

It found that many find themselves excluded from society and denied jobs because of their condition.

The report outlines "a sustained programme to challenge discrimination against people with mental health problems".

Ministers have agreed to analyse complaints made against broadcasters for their coverage of mental health issues.

This report has pointed the way toward delivering people from the Dark Ages and into the light of the 21st century
Cliff Prior, Rethink
They have also pledged to give people more information on how they can complain against programmes that stigmatise people with mental illness.

They will issue guidance to housing providers, the private sector, the NHS, the police and Jobcentre staff to ensure they don't discriminate against people with these conditions.

Families of people with mental health issues will also be given more support.

An independent advisory group is being set up to advise ministers on how well the action plan is being implemented.

'Taking action'

"One in six adults suffer from common mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, at any time," said Minister for Social Exclusion Jeff Rooker.

"Yet this report shows people with mental health problems are one of the most socially excluded groups."

He added: "That's why we're taking action to increase opportunities, particularly in employment, but also addressing housing, education, family needs and community participation."

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said the plan was designed to give people with mental health problems the same opportunities as everyone else.

'Mainstream opportunities'

"We are working across government with all departments, and also with businesses and the voluntary and community sector to help promote a positive culture in relation to mental health.

"Our aim is to ensure that people with mental health problems can get access to ordinary mainstream opportunities."

Richard Brook, chief executive of Mind, welcomed the report, saying: "This report is a positive move towards starting to balance out some of these injustices.

"By looking in depth at people's experiences in all areas of life, the government now has the opportunity to move on and directly address their most immediate needs and the inequalities they face."

Angela Greatley, acting chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health: "l Exclusion Unit published its report on mental health, Angela Greatley said: "Having a mental health problem does not in itself prevent a person from having a home, a job or an education.

"It is only because people with mental health problems are sidelined by others in our society that they so often face a downward spiral of ill health, poverty and isolation.

"This spiral must be broken as a matter of urgency."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "Although we welcome this report, we are concerned that it comes with under 2m of funding."

But she warned: "It is no good expecting the public to change their attitudes and employers to take risks while so many mentally ill people are given inadequate treatment and care."

Cliff Prior, chief executive of Rethink, added: "People with severe mental illness who are on benefits can recover and make a meaningful recovery.

"They tell us they are often held back by stigma and prejudice, not their illness.

"This report has pointed the way toward delivering people from the Dark Ages and into the light of the 21st century."

Britain 'a lonely place to live'
17 May 04  |  Health
Long-term mentally ill 'ignored'
14 Apr 04  |  Health
Mental health still 'in turmoil'
07 Apr 04  |  Health


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