nick cleggMore than a third of people say they come up against discrimination because of their mental ill health on a weekly or monthly basis, according to a survey.

The survey of almost 5,000 people with mental health problems by anti-stigma campaigning group Time to Change found that 34% said they come up against stigma and discrimination on a monthly or weekly basis. One in 10 say they face it every day.

But there are signs that public attitudes have started to improve, with 61% of people saying they now find it easier to talk about their mental illness compared to previous years.

The survey results were published on the day that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg highlighted the level of discrimination that people with mental ill health still face.

“We’re still not comfortable talking about mental health,” he said. “Just imagine yourself stood at the school gates, chatting to other parents. Almost all of us would be fine with mentioning a relative with diabetes, or a family friend undergoing treatment for a broken arm or leg. But, if a loved one was struggling with a mental health problem, would you have the same conversation? For most people, probably not.

“It’s true that over the last few decades huge progress has been made – not least because of campaigning by people and groups… But, all too often, attitudes to mental health are outdated; stuck in the dark ages; full of stigma and stereotypes.”

Other findings of the survey included:
• 58% of people said that stigma and discrimination was as bad as or worse than the illness itself
• 28% waited for more than a year to tell their family about their mental health problem and 22% waited more than a year to talk to their GP about it
• 44% said that stigma and discrimination has stopped them from looking for or returning to work
• 61% have experienced stigma and discrimination from friends and in their social life.

Still a long way to go

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “These new figures show that stigma and discrimination are still life limiting and for some people, who feel they can’t ever talk about mental health, life threatening.

“What is encouraging to see is the number of people who feel it is getting easier to talk more openly about their mental health, and that when they do the response is more positive than expected. However, we have a long way to go until we can talk about mental health and expect others to respond in the same way that they would towards someone with another common health issue like cancer, diabetes or asthma.”

The new findings are released in the run up to the first national Time to Talk Day being held on February 6, which aims to spark a million conversations about mental health.