In recent years, we have seen public attitudes towards those of us with mental health problems improve significantly. Discrimination has decreased in some areas, including how people are treated by friends, family and society. However, people still report high levels of discrimination when they use mental health services. Please see the Research and Resources pages for more.
In 2014 we commissioned a scoping study to help develop this project. It highlighted that people’s experiences of discrimination within services can take different forms, including how long they have to wait for treatment and how appropriate the service is to their needs. It can also be about how they are treated by staff, and it’s this – the attitudes and behaviour of staff - which we are addressing in this project.
As part of this scoping study people told us about the stigma they faced…
“What I felt from the beginning and has continued really was that I wasn’t really being listened to.”
“then I had this fuss about the missed appointment, and they said that I never contacted them at all… I just felt that they were actually using my own mental health against me, because she basically implied that perhaps I thought I’d phoned but I actually hadn’t.”
However, there are lots of examples where people working in mental health services are positively tackling stigma and discrimination, and we want to highlight these in order to empower others to do the same.
We also know staff in mental health services face lots of different pressures. By working together with staff and people with experience of mental health problems to develop this pilot project, we wanted to ensure it’s guided by the reality of what it’s like to work in and use services. When developing this project we asked their views on what approach to take and these were some of the key themes:
- People who use services told us that at times they felt they weren’t listened to, weren’t taken seriously or respected. To feel this within the services they were receiving treatment for mental health problems was particularly hard.
- When relationships worked well, people talked about feeling understood and not judged. They told us they understood how stretched services were, and that many professionals were doing their best under difficult circumstances. But they felt stigmatising attitudes were still in existence.
- When we spoke to mental health professionals, they talked about how much their jobs mattered to them, and the importance to them of good outcomes for people that use their services.
- They recognised they weren’t perfect, and were surprised and disappointed to hear people who use services felt they experienced stigma. When told about this, they were keen to understand what could be done to change this.
- People who use mental health services, those who work in them and those who hold both perspectives shared the opinion that a collaborative relationship is best. They told us that they recognised this relationship as a crucial point in the recovery journey.
“My mental health professional respected my need to go to work even when I was seriously ill.”
“It saddens me that in 2016 we still as professionals are not getting it right.”