Attitudes to mental health problems improving in most areas

19/06/2009

The public is broadly sympathetic towards people with mental health problems, according to a Department of Health survey published today.

The survey 'Attitudes to Mental Illness 2009' showed that the vast majority of the public think that people with mental health problems deserve sympathy and that society needs to be more tolerant towards them (86 and 85 per cent respectively).

There were some improvements in attitudes on employment and integration of people with mental ill health into the community. The survey shows:

* Almost three quarters (73 per cent) agreed that people with mental health problems should have the same rights to a job as anyone else - up from 66 per cent in 2008.

* 79 per cent agreed that mental health services should be provided through community based facilities - up from 72 per cent in 2008.

* 79 per cent also agreed that people with mental illness should not be excluded from their neighbourhood - up from 74 per cent in 2008.

Levels of fear of mental illness also demonstrate signs of improvement:

* 61 per cent of people agree that people with a mental illness are far less of a danger than most people suppose - compared to 57 per cent in 2008.

* Only 15 per cent of respondents feel frightened by people with mental health problems living in residential neighbourhoods.

The previous 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"There's no question that even now in the 21st century, prejudiced and outdated attitudes to mental health problems still exist, leading to discrimination and social exclusion.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.

"I want to help create mentally healthier and more resilient communities, but also a culture where if people do develop mental health problems they are accepted. We'll be consulting on how to do this later this year as part of the New Horizons programme."

Some attitudes to mental illness have worsened, according to the survey.

* 18 per cent of people thought that one of the main causes of mental illness was lack of self discipline and willpower - up from 14 per cent in 2008.

* In 2009 11 per cent of people said they would not want to live next door to someone with a mental health problem, an increase from 8 per cent since 1994.

* The proportion agreeing that we need to adopt a more tolerant attitude decreased from 92 per cent in 1994 to 85 per cent in 2009.

* The proportion disagreeing with the statement 'People with mental illness don't deserve our sympathy' decreased from 92 per cent in 1994 to 86 per cent in 2009

Shift was set up by the Department of Health in 2004 as a five-year programme to tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. It has now been extended to run until 2011. For more information see http://www.shift.org.uk