Three quarters of people (75%) who have experienced a mental health problem say they have lost friendships as a result of their illness, according to a survey1 commissioned by Time to Change - England’s biggest mental health anti-stigma programme, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Talking openly with friends is an important part of many people’s lives, yet having a conversation about mental health seems to be a step too far for many of us. Findings show that 40%2 of British adults would feel awkward talking to a friend who was experiencing a mental health problem. And, only around a quarter (27%)2 feel it would be their responsibility to bring the subject up if they knew a friend was going through a tough time with their mental health.

Due to the stigma around mental illness, many people shy away from supporting someone they know who might be experiencing one. Forty-two per cent2 admit they don’t feel they know enough about mental health problems to talk to a friend going through one, and one in five2 confess they wouldn’t know what to say. Furthermore, 21% of people feel that talking openly about it might make their friend’s situation worse.

The study also reveals that 62%2 of British adults know someone who has experienced a mental health problem. This highlights the fact that most people will have a friend experiencing a mental health problem who might need their support.

These findings are released as Time to Change launches its latest campaign - It’s time to talk. It’s time to change - to encourage the nation to start a conversation around mental health. It aims to remove the awkwardness around mental health by focusing on the small steps we can all take to support someone experiencing a mental health problem. As mental health affects all of us, like physical health, we can all do our bit and start being more open about it.

The campaign is inspired by stories of real people who have been there for someone experiencing a mental illness. A new advert featuring these ‘everyday heroes’ will air on TV screens throughout January and highlight the importance of staying in contact and being supportive when friends and family members experience a mental health problem.

Time to Change Director Sue Baker said:

“These findings show that despite many people knowing someone with a mental health problem, they still don’t feel equipped with enough knowledge to be a supportive friend. The misconceptions that still surround those of us with mental health problems make people worry about offending or embarrassing someone, or saying or doing the wrong thing. So people avoid seeing their friends or speaking to them, when in fact these are the very things that can be helpful.

You don’t have to be an expert to start a conversation about mental health. Being a supportive friend can include small gestures like sending a quick text or email, or an invitation to meet up. It’s time we encouraged people to talk more openly and for mental health to stop being a part of life people are too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about.”

TV presenter and Time to Change Supporter Amanda Lamb adds:

“Mental health problems have affected members of my family in different ways over the years, and my brother Simon has suffered with bouts of depression his entire life.

Being there for him and talking about his condition has bought us closer together. It has helped me to understand what he is going through and shows him that I am there for him when he’s having a tough day. It’s so important that we all become more open about mental health so that we can help those around us who need our support. Simple things such as asking someone round for a cup of tea, keeping in touch and reminding them you care can make a big difference.”

Find out how to start your conversation today at http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talk-about-mental-health or tweet #timetotalk.

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1 The Time to Change survey was conducted online using SurveyMonkey between 19th December and 31st December 2012 and was completed by a total of 1,429 people in the UK with experience of a mental health problem. A link to the survey was distributed via Time to Change Facebook fans and on Twitter.

2 YouGov survey on behalf of Time to Change is taken from fieldwork undertaken between 26th and 28th November 2012. Total sample size was 2,005 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

For more information please contact Larissa Abl, Time to Change Senior Press Officer, on Larissa.abl@rethink.org or 0207 840 3137.

Follow Larissa 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, and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief. For more information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk

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.

Comic Relief

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 £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