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Attitudes to mental health problems have improved

Survey shows public more tolerant but some prejudice still remains

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 12 June 2009

The public's attitude towards people with mental health problems is more sympathetic than it used to be.

A Department of Health survey, published today: '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% respectively).

There were some improvements in attitudes on employment and integration of people with mental ill health into the community. The survey showed that almost three quarters (73%) agreed that people with mental health problems should have the same rights to a job as anyone else - up from 66% in 2008.

Some 79% agreed that mental health services should be provided through community based facilities - up from 72% last year, and 79% said people with mental illness should not be excluded from their neighbourhood, an increase of 5% from 2008.

Levels of fear of mental illness also demonstrate signs of improvement, with 61% of people agreeing that those with mental illnesses are far less of a danger than most people suppose, compared to 57% in 2008.

However, some attitudes to mental illness had worsened, according to the survey, with 18% of people believing the main cause of mental illness to be a lack of self-discipline and willpower (up from 14% last year). And 11% of people said they would not want to live next door to someone with a mental health problem, an increase from 8% since 1994.

Care Services Minister Phil Hope said: "There's no question that even now in the 21st century, prejudiced and outdated attitudes to mental health problems still exist, leading to discrimination and social exclusion.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."

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