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Time to Talk: attitudes to mental illness in England

Posted on 04 February 2016 by Franziska Marcheselli, Researcher .
Tags: Health Survey for England, mental health

Today is ‘Time to Talk’ day; a day to get the nation talking about mental health to try and help end the misconceptions and reduce the stigma surrounding it.

The Health Survey for England (HSE) recently published findings on the experience of mental illness in the nation and attitudes towards it. Results showed that 26% of adults reported having been diagnosed with at least one mental illness during their lifetime. A further 18% of adults reported that they’d experienced a mental illness but hadn’t had it diagnosed. The most frequently reported mental illness was depression, including post-natal depression; almost 1 in 5 adults (19%) reported ever being diagnosed with it.

With more than 1 in 4 adults affected by mental illness, how does the nation actually feel about it?

We asked people about their opinions towards mental illness in a way that allowed us to measure attitudes on two factors: prejudice and exclusion; and tolerance and support for community care. Results showed that there were differences in the attitudes of different groups of people.

So, what factors were related to people’s views? Well, women tended to have more positive views than men, showing more tolerant and less prejudiced views overall. Age was also a factor. Those aged 35-64 held the least prejudiced views and those aged 65 and over held more prejudiced views. Our analysis also confirmed that attitudes towards mental illness are associated with other socio-demographic characteristics such as region, household income, level of deprivation, education and economic status. People living in lower income households and in more deprived areas had less positive views, as did people with lower levels of educational qualifications.

It’s clear from the findings that attitudes towards mental illness are complex and are associated with a wide range of factors.  We also found that attitudes were related to people’s knowledge and experience of mental illness – those who knew others with mental illness, or who felt they had some knowledge about it, had much more positive views.

Negative attitudes still exist, and previous research has found that stigma and discrimination lowers the likelihood of those with mental health problems seeking help. The work that the Time to Change campaign does has demonstrated the power conversations can have and how attitudes are slowly changing for the better. So take the time to talk about mental health today - it could be as simple as asking someone how they are feeling.

If you are experiencing mental health problems, or know of someone who is, this website contains a list of organisations that can help.

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