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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Mentally ill 'suffer discrimination'
GPS are not always sympathetic
People with mental health problems suffer discrimination from family, friends and health professionals, according to a report.

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF), which publishes the Pull Yourself Together report on Tuesday, says that action must be taken to tackle the stigma in society surrounding mental illness.

The report, issued to mark Health Action Week, shows that 70% of people with experience of mental health problems have experienced discrimination in response to their own, or a friend or relative's mental distress.

Almost half (44%) of people with experience of mental health problems say they have experienced discrimination from GPs - even though they are supposed to the first point of call for help.

GP comments to mentally ill people
Snap out of it
I can only help if you're suicidal

Perhaps as a result of this, just under a fifth of people (18%) felt that they could not tell their GP about their mental health problems.

A number of people also reported that GPs had attributed physical health problems to symptoms of mental illness.

Family problems

Of those who had experienced discrimination in response to their own mental health problems, 56% reported discrimination within the family and 51% from friends.

Many respondents received unhelpful or damaging advice from relatives such as "pull yourself together", were thought to be acting, or were even considered stupid or unreliable.

Three-quarters of respondents said they would not disclose mental health problems on application forms for jobs for fear of discrimination. More than half (55%) would not tell their work colleagues.

Ruth Lesirge, MHF director, said the report highlighted the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, and also raised serious questions about the role of the GP.

She said: "It is the doctor who can ensure that you receive appropriate services and treatment. If people are experiencing discrimination or are being told to 'Pull yourself together', then their chances of accessing good support are diminished.

"With one in four of the UK population experiencing mental health problems in any one year, we have to change our attitudes and build on the good services and support that are available."

The MHF recommends:

  • All GPs should have on-going training to develop their understanding of mental health problems
  • The new Disability Rights Commission should give priority to addressing discrimination in relation to people with mental health problems
  • The Government and all agencies which promote mental health should join together to deliver a comprehensive anti-discrimination campaign Pull Yourself Together is based on the responses of 556 people to a postal survey.

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