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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 06:56 GMT
Attitudes to mentally ill improve
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Mental illness is sometimes called "the last taboo"
People in Scotland are becoming more understanding of mental health problems and more tolerant of those who suffer from them, according to new research.

The results of the Scottish Executive survey suggested that there was now widespread acceptance of the fact that anyone can suffer from such problems.

It is only the second time that a National Survey of Public Attitudes to Mental Health has been carried out.

Researchers have published their findings from about 1,500 interviews.

They found that 98% of those questioned believed that people with mental health issues should not be treated any differently.

Fewer people said they felt that the public should be better protected from those with mental health problems - down from 32% from a survey in 2002 to 15% last year.

It is extremely encouraging to see that attitudes in Scotland towards mental health are changing for the better
Rhona Brankin
Deputy Health Minister
A quarter of respondents said they had personally experienced such a problem, and almost three in five knew someone who had been diagnosed with a mental health problem at some stage in their life.

Women, and especially those aged 35-54 years, were among the most likely to have said they had experienced a problem, as were adults who found it difficult to manage on their income, or who rated their general health as poor.

Although too early to say whether the figures constituted a permanent trend, Deputy Health Minister Rhona Brankin said: "It is extremely encouraging to see that attitudes in Scotland towards mental health are changing for the better.

'Not complacent'

"By talking openly about mental health, people are more likely to seek help early, which in turn helps by improving their chances of a quicker recovery.

"By encouraging discussion of mental health, we can increase understanding which, in turn, promotes tolerance."

The minister added: "Much work has been done over the last two years to improve mental health and wellbeing and in particular to address the stigma which can be associated with mental health problems.

"But we are not complacent and will continue to break down the barriers that mental health problems can bring. The most important thing is that attitudes are moving in the right direction and we will strive to build on this."

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