It is with great sadness that Time to Change, England’s globally respected mental health anti-stigma and behaviour change campaign, announces it will close on 31st March 2021 after 15 years.

Since the campaign launched, 5.4 million people now have improved attitudes towards those of us living with mental health problems. Not only that, research shows people’s willingness to live, work and continue a relationship with someone experiencing a mental health problem has also increased by 11.6% - a remarkable behaviour change. Despite this impressive track record, and identifying that the job is not yet done, the Government has confirmed it is not in a position to fund the programme into the future. 

When Time to Change first began, mental health problems were truly taboo. Headlines in national newspapers mocked people living with mental illness; many people were afraid to speak about their experiences to their closest friends and family; and the vast majority of people needing time off sick with a mental health problem would tell their employer they had a physical health problem instead.

Since then, over 9,000 champions with experience of mental health problems, 1,600 employers, 3,000 secondary schools and a network of regional Hubs have joined Time to Change’s social movement. Together with its Champions and supporters, Time to Change has achieved a significant reduction in mental health stigma and discrimination in England: a true sea change in the way people think and act.

In the remaining months, Time to Change will continue to encourage people to be more open to mental health to help end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us feel when experiencing a mental health problem. The campaign will continue to deliver two peaks of national activity: the Ask Twice campaign in November and Time to Talk Day on Thursday 4 February 2021.

While Time to Change has been the principal mechanism by which its partners – Mind and Rethink Mental Illness – have delivered behaviour change at individual, organisational and community levels since 2006, the charities have always challenged, and will continue to challenge, stigma and discrimination in their own work. Over the next few months, Time to Change will turn its attention to embedding anti-stigma outcomes into the work of Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, while continuing to highlight the importance of tackling mental health stigma and discrimination to the Government. 

Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, said: “Over 13 million adults in England, that’s 1 in 4 of us, will experience a mental health problem each year. Thanks to the Time to Change movement, we have seen an outstanding improvement in the way we all think and act about mental health. Many more of us are now comfortable disclosing a mental health problem without shame or fear of judgement. Ultimately this is the very first step in getting the help, support and treatment we need, and deserve.

 “Time to Change has created a strong legacy where more people living with mental health problems are able to live their lives to the full without stigma damaging their relationships, education, career and ambitions. But despite phenomenal progress, our research shows that certain groups have not yet felt the benefit of improvements in public attitudes or behaviour change – including those living with less understood diagnoses such as schizophrenia or people from black and minority ethnic communities*.

“We had hoped to continue to fight for equity and end discrimination, working with these communities and others whose lives continue to be severely impacted. Sadly, we will not be able to carry out this vital work but will spend the coming months making sure that our ambition is driven forward within the work of Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.  

Jo added: “We know that in times of financial hardship, attitudes towards people with mental health problems tend to deteriorate, so there is a real threat that the improvements we’ve achieved will slide backwards. Right now, the true impact of the pandemic on our mental health is still unknown. What we do know is that there are difficult and uncertain times ahead and it has never been more important to look after ourselves and our friends and family: to talk, to listen and to check-in. That is why we will be working with individuals, organisations and communities right up until the last moment of our current funding and encouraging them to continue campaigning into the future.”

Time to Change was set up 15 years ago by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in response to people reporting that the attitudes and behaviours of others towards them could be as difficult, if not more difficult, to deal with than the mental health problem itself. The campaign initially received funding from Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund, with the Department of Health and Social Care also contributing from 2011 onwards.

Changes in attitudes and behaviour towards mental health problems over the course of the Time to Change campaign include:

• an improvement in public attitudes by 12.7%, equating to 5.4 million people

• an increase in public knowledge around mental health of 10%;

• an improvement in intended behaviour towards those of us with mental health problems by 11.6% of the population;

a reduction in discrimination reported by people with lived experience;

• and an improvement in the way the print media report mental health problems 

But the campaign has not achieved this in isolation. It is thanks to the generosity of Time to Change’s funders and the hard work of the thousands of champions, workplaces, schools and individuals that have joined the social movement that these great strides have been made in changing the way people think and act about mental health. Time to Change would like to extend its thanks to each and every person who has joined the fight against mental health stigma over the last 15 years.

*Time to Change recognises the limitations and problems of using catchall umbrella terms such as ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethic (BAME)’. In order to make conclusions which can only be drawn from a robust sample size, for the purposes of presenting the findings of our research we have included respondents from different ethnic groups which fall under the BAME umbrella. However we recognise that there are distinct and unique identities and challenges facing different communities referred to as ‘BAME’, which can be obscured in research that aggregates non-White groups together as ‘BAME groups’.