A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has shown there has been an 11.5% reduction in average levels of discrimination. The study of England’s Time to Change anti-stigma programme (run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness) provides the first evidence that it is possible to change the way the public treat people with mental health problems, but that a long term focus is needed to ensure that discrimination is removed from all areas of people’s lives. The evaluation covers the first phase of Time to Change, which ran between 2007 and 2011 and was funded by the Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief.  

There has been a significant reduction in discrimination from friends (14% reduction), family (9%), and in social life (11%). Within the campaign target audience there has also been a significant increase in willingness to live with someone with a mental health problem in the future (15%). This suggests that change is happening within personal relationships, and these are all areas which the Time to Change programme has specifically targeted.

The research, led by Dr Claire Henderson and Professor Graham Thornicroft from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London, is part of a comprehensive evaluation resulting in a series of eight articles published in the British Journal of Psychiatry today.

It found that 3% more people using mental health services now say that they don’t experience any discrimination at all compared with 2008. There has also been a clear trend towards improved attitudes among the general public, in contrast to the preceding 10-15 years, in which there was a lack of improvement in public attitudes in England, Scotland and the USA. 

Discrimination when getting and keeping a job decreased significantly between 2008 and 2010, and a survey of employers shows improved knowledge of common mental health problems and more policies in place to support people with mental health problems in the workplace in 2010 compared to 2006. Changes to public attitudes have been more fragile, with some of the early improvements between 2009 and 2010 dropping back in 2011. This suggests that the unfavourable economic climate is limiting more positive change, and is consistent with evidence that hostile behaviour towards other groups of people with disabilities has increased since 2010.

A study comparing newspaper reporting of mental health between 2008 and 2011 found an increase in the proportion of anti-stigmatising articles, but no significant reduction in the amount of stigmatising articles (the proportion of neutral articles decreased). However, there was a decrease in the proportion of articles about people with mental health problems posing a danger to others, and an increase in the proportion of people with mental health problems being quoted as sources.

People who had seen the Time to Change campaign were more likely to have better knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems than those who had not. The campaign has featured celebrities including Stephen Fry, Frank Bruno, Alastair Campbell and Ruby Wax. The evaluation also showed that knowing someone who is open about having a mental health problem (so called ‘social contact’) has a clear and positive impact on public attitudes and behaviour. 

Dr Claire Henderson, King’s College London, said: "There is evidence that both the quality and quantity of social contact between people with mental health problems and others is increasing. Our evaluation shows that Time to Change is helping to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination within informal relationships such as friends and family, who are the commonest sources of discrimination. However, we found that mental health discrimination has not yet improved amongst health professionals, including mental health professionals.  Our findings suggest that it's easier to influence the way people behave with those they are close to, but much harder to change how people behave in more formal roles or within their professional framework."

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “We invested heavily in this evaluation in order to learn from it, as a programme of this scale had not been attempted in England before and no other campaign had looked at behaviour as well as attitude change.  So it is really encouraging to see these small but significant changes at such an early stage.

“We know that this is the work of a generation like other issues such as racism and homophobia.  That’s why this needs sustained, long term focus, particularly during difficult economic times when so many other factors could be having a negative influence on public attitudes.

“What’s extremely encouraging is evidence of the positive impact of knowing someone who is open about having a mental health problem. This evaluation emphasises that those of us with experience of mental health problems ourselves need to continue to be the major driving forces of social change.”

Time to Change is now in its second phase with funding from the Department of Health and Comic Relief. The uniquely rigorous evaluation is crucial in helping the programme to evolve and shape new work, as well as in aiding the development of other anti-stigma campaigns internationally. The current programme reflects much of the learning presented in these results, including a strategic focus on the media, the extension of social contact alongside social marketing and a pilot project with primary care staff.

  • Read the evaluation papers in full – this is free of charge and does not require a subscription
  • Look at Time to Change’s legacy resources – we have brought together what we learnt about running an anti-stigma programme during the first phase
  • Read our press release
  • Take a look at our blogs, to hear about how people involved in the campaign have felt the impact of change
  • Tell us whether things have changed for you – join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter


For more information please contact Hayley Richardson-Roberts, Time to Change Senior Media Officer, on h.richardson@time-to-change.org.uk or 0208 2152 358/ 07789 721 966

To request a copy of the full BJ Psych supplement please contact Hayley Richardson-Roberts on the details above or Liz Fox at the Royal College of Psychiatrists on efox@rcpsych.ac.uk or 020 7235 2351 ext.6298 or 07738 349 070. Follow Hayley on Google+

Notes to Editors


Time to Change

Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.  The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

For more information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk 

In its first phase, which this evaluation covers, Time to Change was funded by the Big Lottery Fund (£16m) and Comic Relief (£4.5m):


Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) supported the first phase of the Time to Change campaign with a £16million grant from its £160m Well-being programme. The largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding,  BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has awarded over £4.4bn to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since 2004. For full details of BIG’s work visit: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk.

Comic Relief

Comic Relief is a UK charity, which aims to create a just world, free from poverty. The money raised by Comic Relief is spent at home in the UK, across Africa and throughout the world’s poorest countries to help people, families and whole communities stand on their own two feet. 

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 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 current £4 million grant to Time to Change is the second time the charity has awarded Time to Change its largest UK grant and is part of Comic Relief's long standing commitment to this issue. For more information go to www.comicrelief.com

Comic Relief, registered charity 326568 (England/Wales); SC039730 (Scotland) 

King’s College London

King's College London is one of the top 30 universities in the world (2012/13 QS international world rankings), and was The Sunday Times 'University of the Year 2010/11', and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has more than 25,000 students (of whom more than 10,000 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and more than 6,500 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.


King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £525 million (year ending 31 July 2011).

King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar.

King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org

In its current phase (2011 – 2015), Time to Change is funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief:


Department of Health

On 2 February 2011 the Department of Health launched No health without mental health, a cross-government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages which has the twin aims of keeping people well and improving their mental health and, when people are not well, improving their outcomes through high-quality services.

The strategy is based on six shared objectives, developed with partners from across the mental health sector, and focuses on ‘Recovery’ and the reduction of stigma and discrimination as overarching themes. 

To help deliver the objective to reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health problems, in 2011 the Department agreed to support Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. The Department of Health is providing the campaign with up to £16 million of funding together with a further £4 million from Comic Relief. This funding will help Time to Change continue their work until March 2015.