Overwhelming majority of people severely affected by mental illness report discrimination still widespread
06 May 2021
New survey reveals overwhelming majority (88%) of people severely affected by mental illness report discrimination still widespread.
The need to tackle stigma and discrimination experienced by people severely affected by mental illness has been laid bare in a new survey by the charity Rethink Mental Illness.
The survey, completed by more than 500 people severely affected by mental illness, including diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, revealed:
• Three in four people (74%) felt that levels of stigma towards people severely affected by mental illness have not improved in the last decade.
• Eight in ten people (86%) reported that the fear of being stigmatised or discriminated against stopped them from doing things they wanted to do, including seeking help for a mental health problem (61%), disclosing their mental health condition to friends or family (69%) or applying for a job or promotion at work (61%).
• An overwhelming majority of 88% agreed that discrimination towards people severely affected by mental illness is widespread in England.
More positively, 67% of people agreed that levels of stigma towards more common health problems, which can be managed with the right treatment and support, had improved in the last ten years. However, this had not extended to people severely affected by mental illness, whose condition impacts aspects of their daily life, such as the ability to build and maintain relationships or undertake work and recreational activities.
The conversation around mental health has evolved significantly in the last ten years, with high profile figures sharing their experiences of mental illness, increased take-up of training in the workplace and the coronavirus pandemic opening conversations around mental health and wellbeing. Yet despite this, people severely affected by mental illness report stigma and discrimination continue to have a direct impact on their lives.
The charity is calling on the government to put anti-stigma and discrimination work at the heart of its public mental health programmes, with a focus on the experiences of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and those living with less well understood mental health problems. To achieve this, it is vital that the government commits to continue its Attitude to Mental Illness research, to guarantee an up-to-date picture of changing public views.
Rethink Mental Illness will also place a renewed focus on tackling stigma and discrimination during Mental Health Awareness Week when it will be highlighting different conditions to help develop understanding.
Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said:
“We still have a long way to go in our efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by people severely affected by mental illness. The damaging words and behaviour that people face can have a devastating impact on their lives. We must all commit to calling out stigma and discrimination when we see it.
“While it is positive to see improved perceptions of more common health conditions, we must ensure no one is left out in the national conversation about mental health.”
Antonio, 23, who lives with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, said:
“I’ve experienced stigma and discrimination many times in my life, and I’m only 23. People are so quick to judge me based on a diagnosis, who I am as a person, and what I can achieve. It’s been exhausting, confusing and distressing trying to deal with people’s perceptions of me and it makes life harder. But if we pretend it doesn’t exist, things will never get better. That’s why it’s so important that we challenge stigma and discrimination wherever we find it.”
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