timetochangeA new training pack has been launched to help reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by people when using mental health services. 

Mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change has compiled the pack in partnership with NHS England, having worked with mental health professionals and people using services to develop the materials, which are available to all mental health trusts in England. 

The initiative is in response to research, which shows that, despite positive changes in attitudes towards people with mental health problems in some areas of life, 1 in 3 people report stigma and discrimination when they use mental health services. Time to Change, which is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, developed the pack to encourage open dialogue among mental health teams about the positive changes they can make to improve their culture and practice in secure and community settings. The pack is available through the Time to Change website and includes a film and supporting materials to be used as part of staff supervisions.

This builds on a successful pilot scheme launched in October 2015 by Time to Change in conjunction with the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust and the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTWFT). As part of the pilot mental health professionals are brought together with people who use services to highlight positive examples of where mental health staff have challenged stigma and discrimination with the aim of empowering others to do the same. Some sessions involve mental health professionals who have their own experiences of mental illness and share their views on both aspects. Early evidence shows the pilot improved professionals’ confidence to explore new or different ways of responding to people with mental health problems. 

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “Despite making significant headway in improving general public attitudes towards mental illness, people using mental health services continue to report having experienced discrimination within services and other parts of the NHS. 

“However, we also know that there are some positive examples of delivering care and it’s these that we want to encapsulate and share with other trusts to show what can be done to improve services and make a big difference to people’s recovery. By partnering with NHS England we are able to ensure that a wider pool of trusts across the country will be able to make use of the training and ensure that people using services have an improved experience when they visit their healthcare setting.”

Joanne McDonnell, senior nurse for mental health and learning disabilities at NHS England, said: “It’s really important that everyone working in the NHS creates the most positive experience possible for service users and it’s fantastic that Time to Change is working in partnership with NHS England to spread that message far and wide.

“Research from this campaign has shown that even small individual actions we can all make, like keeping eye contact or taking a few extra minutes with someone, can change an interaction and improve the experience and life of someone with a mental health problem. Don’t leave it to others because reducing stigma and improving care is everybody’s responsibility.”  

Dr Sara Munro, executive director of quality and nursing and deputy CEO at the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, welcomed the new package. “The relationships between staff and patients is crucial, not only for patients’ recovery and willingness to ask for help, but also for the wellbeing of staff, many of whom have their own experience of mental health problems, either personally or through friends and family. It really is time to break down the invisible barriers – we all experience a range of emotions, thoughts and feelings that we should feel able to talk about.”

Daniel Regan, who has used mental health services and helped to develop the training materials, added: "My experience with mental health services hasn’t been an easy road, so it is really important to me that my interaction with mental health professionals is a positive one. There are simple and easy things that professionals can do to put me at ease, help me to feel understood and see that we are both working towards a common goal. I believe it’s important for clinicians to understand how to better themselves within their job because the small things really can have a huge impact for someone like me."

To view the new campaign materials and the film visit www.time-to-change.org.uk/professionals