Back in February of this year the Havant and East Hants Mind team has got behind this year's national Time to Talk campaign to get as many people as possible across our area talking about mental health. Breaking the silence that often surrounds mental health, and showing that talking about this once-taboo issue doesn’t need to be difficult. The staff team handed out many free t-bags and other free items to encourage open conversations about mental health and to promote openness around mental health stigma and discrimination. The team spoke to members of the public, in the local shopping precinct, the local library, a local café and within the local community centre. We had an enjoyable afternoon talking to people about a subject that we are passionate about. We managed 103 conversations about mental health. This a continuation of work we have been doing for many years and since then our work has extended with schools, community groups and through our hundreds of partners across Hampshire. It seem this approach is finally showing results year on year. This and other such work including a more positive approach from politicians and the media may have also contributed. Research from July 15, 2015 shows a record number of people in England saying they would be willing to live, work and have a relationship with someone who has experience of a mental health problem. Public attitudes have also improved by 6% over the last three years since phase 2 of Time to Change began, which equates to more than 2.5 million people with improved attitudes towards people with mental health problems.
The National Attitudes to Mental Illness survey, which has been conducted annually by TNS since 1993, with additional analysis carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London since 2009. The reported improvements in attitude change of 6% - against a 5% target between 2011 and 2014 - have happened despite the risk of deterioration during times of economic hardship.
The survey asks a number of questions to track how public attitudes are changing over time. In 2009, questions were introduced to measure the public’s intended behaviour towards people with mental health problems. In this most recent study levels of reported and intended behaviour have reached their highest level since then:
9% increase in willingness to live with someone with a mental health problem (57% to 66%)
8% increase in willingness to live nearby to someone with a mental health problem (72% to 80%)
7% willingness to continue a relationship with a friend who had a mental health problem (82% to 89%)
7% increase in willingness to work with someone with a mental health problem (69% to 76%).
The number of people acknowledging that they know someone close who has had a mental illness increased from 58% in 2009 to 65% in 2014, possibly the result of decreasing stigma and greater levels of openness about mental health problems amongst the population. Encouragingly, over two thirds (68%) of respondents also said that they now know what advice to give a friend to get professional help for their mental health problem.
Generally, the survey shows that people are becoming more tolerant and understanding of people with mental health issues. Nine in ten people (91%) agreed that we need to adopt a more tolerant attitude towards people with mental health problems in our society, and 78% agreed that people with mental health problems have for too long been the subject of ridicule.
Despite these significant improvements, the statistics also show that there’s more work to be done to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination. Although 40% of people said they would be comfortable talking to their employer about their mental health problems, nearly half (48%) said they would feel uncomfortable. When asked about how to describe someone who has a mental illness, nearly 40% agreed that they are prone to violence, when in reality people are far more likely to be the victims of crime rather than the perpetrator.