Page last updated at 23:19 GMT, Sunday, 20 July 2008 00:19 UK

Mental health poll reveals stigma

Stressed woman
Rates of mental illness appear to be rising

Nine out of ten people with mental health problems in England say they are frequently stigmatised - often by those closest to them, a survey has found.

Strangers in shops or public transport were likely to be the most accepting, with family and neighbours more likely to treat them differently.

The poll, by charity Rethink, found discrimination also impacted on carers of people with mental illness.

The charity called for more government funding to fight the problem.

People with mental health problems have enough on their plates without facing additional pressure caused by other people's archaic and bigoted opinions
Paul Corry
Rethink

Rethink interviewed more than 3,000 people, asking them how their condition affected their daily lives.

It suggested that it stopped some people from doing everyday things such as applying from jobs, making new friends, or going out to pubs and shops.

Some people even felt they could not report a crime, because the police would treat them differently due to their mental health problem.

However, while 35% said that employers had discriminated against them, even more said they had been stigmatised within their own immediate family.

More than three out of ten said neighbours treated them badly, and a quarter said that friends had treated them badly.

Janey Antoniou, who has schizophrenia, described one incident: "I had a neighbour who used to run inside when she saw me because she had seen me taken to hospital by the police in my dressing gown."

The medical profession were also guilty of discrimination, according to the survey; with 23% of those questioned saying that their GP had treated them differently, and 18% saying the same of their psychiatrist.

However, only one in 10 said that shopkeepers or public transport staff had caused a problem.

'Bigoted

Rethink is launching an 18m campaign, Moving People, to address this. Paul Corry, from the charity, said: "Our research clearly shows that stigma and discrimination are ruining people's lives.

The stigma faced by people with mental health problems on a daily basis is unjust, it is hurtful and it can prevent people from seeking the help they need to recover
Suzie Vestri
"see me" Scotland

"People with mental health problems have enough on their plates without facing additional pressure caused by other people's archaic and bigoted opinions."

He called on the government to invest more money to drive home the message - and to set a good example by employing more people with mental illness.

In Scotland, a similar campaign, "see me", was launched in 2002, and is claiming an improvement in the amount of stigma faced.

Its own surveys suggest an 18% fall in the number of people in Scotland with mental health problems who would prefer other people not to know about their condition.

In total 85% in the Scottish survey said they felt the campaign had helped them be more open about their mental illness.

Suzie Vestri, the acting campaign director of "see me", said: "The stigma faced by people with mental health problems on a daily basis is unjust, it is hurtful and it can prevent people from seeking the help they need to recover.

"There is much still to be done to address this but by working together and taking a stand, I firmly believe we can make a real difference to people's lives."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it was working with Rethink to reduce discrimination.

"Shift, the government campaign to combat stigma, is focusing its efforts in a targeted way so as to complement, rather than duplicate the work of Moving People.

"We are working with employers - identified as a top target audience by Rethink's survey - to improve how they handle mental health problems in the workplace."




SEE ALSO
MPs reveal mental health problems
16 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Call for mental heath care push
11 May 07 |  Health

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