Online survey reveals two out of three workers are scared to tell colleagues about their mental health problems and many with mental illnesses have had a negative experience talking about it with those closest to them.
PEOPLE in England need to get past the fear and awkwardness of talking about mental illnesses and be more open about mental health if we’re going to break down stigma and take the taboo out of something that affects us all, says England’s leading mental health anti-discrimination programme Time to Change .
To help end the silence around mental health problems, Time to Change is launching a new nation-wide campaign called ‘It’s time to talk, it’s Time to Change’ on Monday 21st March. The campaign addresses the reluctance many of us feel in talking about mental illnesses and encourages conversations about mental health with those around us.
A recent online survey conducted by Time to Change  looking into conversations around mental health has highlighted the hesitation people with mental health problems feel in opening up to those around them, especially when compared to talking about physical health problems.
In the survey, only one in three respondents (29.7%) said they would feel comfortable telling a work colleague they had been off work as a result of their mental illness, while nine out of 10 respondents (88%) said they would feel comfortable saying they had been away from work for a physical health problem.
Many respondents said they had had a negative experience when talking to work colleagues (41.5%), friends (47.5%) and family members (54.6%) about their mental health problem. Additionally, numerous respondents who had not yet spoken out about their mental health said they were worried that they would face a negative response if they did, especially in the workplace (33.9%).
Television presenter Davina McCall, who is backing ‘It’s time to talk, it’s Time to Change’, said: “Talking about mental health could be one of the most important conversations you ever have. With one in four people living with a mental health problem, it’s likely we all know someone experiencing it right now, and we might not even be aware of it. Being open about mental health goes a long way to breaking down the stigma.”
Other celebrities supporting the campaign and encouraging the country to open up about mental health include Claudia Winkleman, Stephen K Amos, The Wanted, Frank Bruno, Rebecca Front, Derek Martin and Alastair Campbell. Claudia Winkleman said: “People with mental health problems often feel they have to hide it, for fear of how others might react. But mental health problems are so common they shouldn’t be hidden in shame and secrecy.”
Time to Change director Sue Baker said: “Mental illnesses are common, so being able to talk about mental health is something that’s important for everyone. Silence around mental health is a big cause of stigma and discrimination and, for people with mental illnesses, often the hardest part of having a mental health problem.
“Not talking about mental health can lead to the loss of friendships, people with mental illnesses feeling isolated or not seeking help, and a slower recovery. However, talking can strengthen friendships, aid recovery and break down stereotypes. It’s often a few small words that can make a big difference and get the conversation started - you don’t have to be an expert, just a friend.”
Despite the stigma, many people with mental health problems believe it’s now time to start talking about mental health and are bravely stepping forward to talk about their experiences and encourage others with mental health problems to also start opening up.
Tiffany Greene, who experiences panic attacks and depression, said: “For years I was embarrassed and ashamed about my mental illness, and I think it’s because no one talks about it. Recently I have been quite open; if people want to know about it I will quite happily tell them. Why should I feel ashamed?”
Simon Jay, who has anxiety and depression, said: “The more we are silent about mental health, the harder it is for people to understand. Mental illness is a part of life and we need to demystify it. Talking about it is really the first step for people to come to terms with it.”
Gemma Nicholls, who has bipolar disorder, said: “Talking leads to action, action leads to change and change is what is required to ensure that mental illness is no longer a taboo subject. It is something that needs to come out of the shadows and we can only do this by talking.”
Featuring television, radio and viral advertising as well as real life stories from people with mental health problems and celebrities, the ‘It’s time to talk, it’s Time to Change’ campaign encourages people both with and without mental illnesses not to be afraid of talking about mental health, starting with doing something quite simple and easy such as asking someone how they’re feeling.
Please visit time-to-change.org.uk or facebook.com/timetochange for more information about starting your conversation about mental health or to watch the new ‘It’s time to talk, it’s Time to Change’ advertising and see people sharing their experiences of talking about mental health.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, COMMENT AND NATIONAL AND LOCAL CASE STUDIES CALL Olivia Deskoski, Campaign PR Manager, on 020 7840 3137 or 07587 133 156, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Time to Change is England’s most ambitious programme to end the discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, and improve the nation’s wellbeing. Mind and Rethink are leading the programme, funded with £16m from the Big Lottery Fund and £4.5m from Comic Relief, and evaluated by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London. For further information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk
2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from an online Time to Change poll. Total sample size was 600 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th-15th March 2011.
3. The Big Lottery Fund’s support for Time to Change comes from its £165m Well-being programme. The Big Lottery Fund has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006. Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888/Out of hours: 07867 500 572 Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030/Textphone: 08456 021 659
4. Comic Relief is committed to supporting people living with mental health problems. The projects Comic Relief funds ensure people with mental health problems get their voices heard in the decisions that affect their lives and to get the help they need to recover. Comic Relief also helps people to promote their rights and reduce the stigma and discrimination they face so that they feel more included in society. The £4.5 million grant to Time to Change is part of Comic Relief's long standing commitment to this issue. For more information go to www.comicrelief.com