September 16, 2010

I was in the radio studios again yesterday talking about our new campaign, which aims to show how stigma and discrimination affects people in everyday life. And I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with our new Time to Change pin-up boy, Erik, the star of the latest burst of our campaign. Ruby Wax calls herself the 'poster girl for depression' having featured in our campaign last year, so I think it only fair we call Erik our pin-up boy!

Erik and six other fantastic volunteers have taken part in our new social experiment, posting their profiles on dating and flatshare websites to see how responses differ when they disclosed their mental health problem, compared to when they kept it quiet. Sadly the results don't make for encouraging reading - overall the volunteers received 50% fewer responses on dating sites and 68% fewer on flatshare sites when they added just one little line: "I have a mental health problem."

I've been talking about these results on the radio along with Erik, Chris and Nina, hoping they'll encourage people to think about their own attitudes and realise that it's the assumptions we make about people with mental health problems that hurt the most.

Erik, who was in the radio studios with me, talks eloquently and movingly about how stigma affects him. He may have had a negative response when disclosing his mental health problems on the dating and flatshare sites, but the responses to him speaking out today and in our documentary about the social experiment have been amazing.

He faced some difficult questions in the studios, but has more than done us proud with his answers. When asked whether people who haven't experienced depression themselves can really be expected to understand what it's like, he responded that as a man, he doesn't have to go through childbirth himself to be able to understand what a painful experience it is and empathise. A great line.

Our other volunteers Chris, Nina, Bonnae, Vikkie, Danielle and Tom have also been incredible, literally putting themselves on the line online to show not only how harmful stigma can be, but also, today, the power of people speaking out. I hope that after hearing Erik and the others talking today, people will be less quick to judge and more willing to give people with mental health problems a chance.

Watch Erik in our documentary, 'Don't Get Me Wrong'.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.