timetochangeMental health stigma still has a negative effect on many people – with 38% of respondents to a survey saying that they had been negatively treated as a result of their mental health problem.

A UK-wide independent survey of 2,000 adults living with a range of mental health problems also noted that 16% didn’t know or preferred not to say whether or not they had been negatively treated while 46% said they had not. This means that, if the survey is reflective of the UK in general, millions of people are affected by stigma.

Of those who had experienced stigma and discrimination, 19% had lost their job, 54% had lost contact with a loved one (friend, family member or partner), 12% couldn’t go through with an important life event (e.g. wedding, graduation) and 55% stopped socialising or going out.

The findings have been released on Time to Talk Day (February 2), a nationwide push to get people talking more openly about mental health. Time to Talk Day is organised by mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, led by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Time to Talk Day 2017 focuses on the theme ‘Conversations Change Lives’ with a target of getting people talking over 24 hours. Findings from the survey show that 31% would have been encouraged to open up about their mental health problems sooner if people close to them were more open about their feelings and emotions.  

This year, more than 1,000 organisations are organising activities around Time to Talk Day, including Tesco, John Lewis Partnership, Unilever, WH Smith, Tranmere Rovers Football Club and England Athletics. Several organisations will use the day to sign the Time to Change Employer Pledge. In addition, 600 secondary schools alongside universities and colleges, councils, national government departments and community organisations are joining in. Celebrities such as Freddie Flintoff, Alastair Campbell and Denise Welch are also supporting the day on social media.

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “These figures show the devastating impact that mental health stigma continues to have on potentially millions of lives. We know that progress is being made in improving attitudes and reducing discrimination in some key areas of life but too many of us are still being made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless by other people’s reactions, resulting in the loss of what means the most – our friends, our families, our jobs.

“The good news is that being open about mental health, and ready to listen, can make a positive difference and potentially change lives. Time to Talk Day is a great reason for everyone to get involved and become part of our movement to change how we all think and act about mental health.”

Personal trainer Neil Laybourn had a conversation that changed the life of Jonny Benjamin when he talked him out of taking his own life when he found him standing on the edge of a London bridge.

"At the time when I spoke to Jonny on the bridge, I really had no idea that having one conversation would have such a profound impact on both of us,” he said.

“Most people are fortunate enough not to struggle severely with their mental health, but being more aware of the subject and being open to listen and have conversations with those that do struggle can and will make a difference. If you are able to allow people to open up and speak, you may change somebody's life - you don't have to be an expert or have a qualification to have a conversation about mental health - just being human, empathetic and caring is enough.”

Benjamin added: “Talking to Neil was a giant weight off my shoulders. I didn't have to keep all the dark and distressing thoughts and feelings that encompassed me to myself once I opened up to him - and that was a huge relief. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed of what was happening to me but having Neil listen so compassionately, patiently and non-judgementally literally saved my life.”

Time to Change is asking people to log their conversation at www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday, which will be updated in real time to show how many people are taking part.

Join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #timetotalk