‘End this stigma’ on mental health

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More than half of people with a mental health problem in Yorkshire are waiting more than year to tell the people closest to them about it, a new survey by a anti-stigma campaign Time to Change revealed.

Researchers found that stigma is still preventing people from getting support from their family and friends when they need it the most, and worries about discrimination is stopping them socialising and having relationships.

The survey has been released today on Time to Talk Day, an initiative ran by anti-stigma campaign group Time to Change, to encourage people to break the silence surrounding mental health problems.

It has been supported by anti-stigma campaigner Lawrence Butterfield, of Guisborough, North Yorkshire, who despite working in the mental health profession as nurse and manager, waited 12 months before talking about his depression with colleagues and friends, and ultimately seeking help from his GP.

Mr Butterfield, 54, said: “I look back now and feel ashamed that I felt stigma about talking about my mental health. I felt if I took time off sick I would everybody down. But in reality I was making things worse for myself and others around me by staying at work.”

Mr Butterfield said a “macho culture” often stopped men in particular opening up about mental health problems

“If it was a broken arm or leg, people wouldn’t hesitate to get help, but there is a perceived sense of weakness in seeking help, rather than seeing the strength in talking about it,” he said. “

The survey showed that 59 per cent of people in Yorkshire with a mental health problem are waiting over a year to tell their family and friends, but encouraging also found that 72 per cent of those questioned in the region said that once they finally did tell family and friends, they were the most supportive of all groups including employers, colleagues, teachers, GPs and online networks.

The results also showed the extent to which stigma and discrimination was affecting people’s lives, with 44 per cent saying they experienced stigma and discrimination either weekly or monthly, and 67 per cent saying it had stopped them from socialising. Almost half, 43 per cent, said it had stopped them from having a relationship.

Time to Change, which is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, wants people to spend five minutes to have a conversation today to “bring mental health out of the shadows”.

The campaign’s director, Sue Baker said: “It’s shocking to see that so many people are still waiting over a year to talk to their nearest and dearest – it’s hard to imagine this happening with other health issues. We know that talking openly about mental health is a vital first step towards breaking down stigma and discrimination.”

Major employers like Network Rail and HSBC, politicians, universities and schools are supporting Time to Talk day.

“We’ve come a long way towards breaking the silence but this new data shows there is still much further to go until talking about mental health is an ordinary and unremarkable thing to do,” Ms Baker added.