Mental health survey findings could be sign of a “tipping point”


The public have become more positive about including people with mental health problems in their local community, according to an annual survey.
The survey for the Department of Health of more than 1, 750 adults in England found that the proportion of people who believe mental health services should be provided in the community has increased from 72 per cent to 79 per cent since last year.
Those who agree that people with mental health problems have the same right to a job as anyone else increased from 66 per cent in 2008 to 73 per cent in 2009.
And 61 per cent agree that people with mental illness are far less of a danger than most people suppose, a four per cent rise since 2008.
But public attitudes have not improved in some areas. Those who agree that one of the main causes of mental illness is “a lack of self-discipline and willpower” rose from 14 to 18 per cent.
And the percentage who would not want to live next door to a person who has been mentally ill has risen from eight per cent in 1994 – when the survey was first carried out – to 11 per cent in 2009.
And the proportion agreeing with the need for more tolerant attitudes has fallen from 92 per cent in 1994 to 85 per cent in 2009.
The anti-stigma campaign Time for Change, which is led by the mental health charities Mind and Rethink, said the figures suggest public attitudes towards mental health “are finally taking a turn”.
Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “Deep-seated prejudices are starting to shift and it’s a further sign that we are heading towards a tipping point in England and that there is a real appetite for change.”
But she added: “Our challenge is to turn attitudinal change into behavioural change to reduce the incidents of discrimination that are still so widely reported by people with mental health problems.”
Phil Hope, the care services minister, said: “There’s no question that even now in the 21st century, prejudiced and outdated attitudes to mental health problems still exist, leading to discrimination and social exclusion. But this survey shows that some attitudes are starting to change for the better.”
He said the government would be consulting on how to improve attitudes as part of its New Horizons programme later this year.

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