Since the Time to Change movement began people up and down the country have been working to change the way we think and act about mental health problems and together, we’ve made significant headway.
Improving public attitudes and intended behaviour
Since we started in 2008 we have reached millions of people across England and have begun to improve their attitudes towards people with mental health problems. In fact, there are now 3.4 million people with improved attitudes, which is an improvement of 8.3% between 2008 and 2014.
We measure public attitudes using an annual survey which asks a representative sample of the English population questions about their knowledge, attitudes and intended behaviour towards people with mental health problems. In the most recent survey, conducted at the end of 2014, we looked at how public attitudes had changed since the second phase of the campaign began and in three years public attitudes had improved by 6% against a 5% target - that's more than two and a half million people with improved attitudes. We also saw a record number of people saying they would be willing to live, work and continue a relationship with someone who has experience of a mental health problem.
Another study by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurology, King's College London in June 2013 looked at data on public attitudes from 2003-2013 and found that there was a "step change” increase in positive attitudes in some key areas after the campaign launched. Although attitudes may have been at risk of deterioration during times of economic hardship, they continued to improve during the recession in England and the authors suggest this is likely to be due to Time to Change.
Changing behaviour and reducing discrimination
The levels of discrimination that people face are also moving the right direction and latest research has shown that fewer people are reporting discrimination in their life and when they do, it’s happening less often and in fewer areas.
We measure levels of discrimination by asking people who have a diagnosed mental health problem, and are accessing secondary mental health services, about the discrimination they face in 21 different areas of their lives. The areas of life we ask about range from family, friends and social life (which Time to Change is directly targeting) to areas affected by the wider policy context such as housing, benefits and the police.
Between 2008 and 2014 we saw a 5.6% increase in the number of people reporting no discrimination in any life area. For those who did report discrimination in some areas of their lives, the average level fell from 41.6% to 28.4%. Out of the 21 different life areas the number in which people reported discrimination fell from 5.7 to 4.1.
However, despite these significant improvements, the survey shows many people still report discrimination when accessing secondary mental health services. Over the last few years we’ve been working with mental health professionals to do something about this. The research also found that when people disclose their mental health problem to family and friends they tended to ‘shy away’ or ‘turn their backs’. Clearly we still have more work to do.
The link between our campaign and improved attitudes and behaviour
According to evaluation of Time to Change by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurology, King’s College London, there is a clear and consistent link between awareness of the Time to Change campaign and having more positive attitudes. People who had seen the campaign are more likely to have better knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems than those who have not. They were also significantly more confident to tackle negative attitudes and behaviour whenever they saw it.
Our work with families, friends, neighbours and colleagues to help them to open up to mental health problems is really having a life changing impact. In the survey looking at levels of discrimination, it found that the biggest reductions came from the areas of dating, social life and discrimination from family and friends.
Starting conversations about mental health
The public attitudes survey has shown a significant increase in the number of adults who now say they know someone with a mental health problem – from 58% in 2009 to 65% in 2014. This suggests greater levels of openness about mental health in the population as a whole and should in turn lead to further improved attitudes as ‘social contact’, or knowing someone who is open about having a mental health problem has a clear and positive impact on public attitudes and behaviour.
When it comes to talking about mental health there are stark differences between men and women. New research suggests that people with mental health problems are less likely to turn to men for support, and that women are better at recognising mental health problems in others.
Several papers about the evaluation of Time to Change have been published by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurology, King’s College London in peer reviewed journals.
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