New research reveals people in England would rather date someone they weren't attracted to than date someone with a mental illness; social experiment reflects findings and underlines discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.

More people in England would turn down a date with someone who had a mental illness (57%) if they were single and looking for love online than someone they found unattractive (44%) or someone without the same interests (43%), a new survey as part of the Time to Change campaign [1] addressing mental health prejudice has found.

Also, people with a mental health problem are more likely to be turned down for a second date if they reveal they have a mental illness (44%) than those who disclose they have been in prison (42%), have a physical health problem (19%) or are unemployed (18%).

The survey [2] also looked at flatsharing and revealed 60% of us would not want to rent a room to someone with a mental health problem, more than three times as many as who would say no to someone with a physical health problem (18%).

The survey reflects findings from a unique social experiment [3] conducted by Time to Change which disturbingly shows that people with mental health problems face significant stigma and discrimination when trying to find love or share a flat.

The social experiment involved seven people with mental illnesses posting ads on dating and flatshare websites in two phases.  At first the ads appeared without mention of their mental health problem, but after some weeks these were taken down and replaced with the exact same profile but this time with a line disclosing they had a mental illness.

When results from the two phases were compared, the social experiment showed an overall drop of 50% in interest in dating our participants and a 68% drop in interest in living with our participants when their mental illness was revealed.

For one participant, Erik Baurdoux, who is the face of the new Time to Change campaign and stars in an online film about his experiences in the social experiment called Don't Get Me Wrong, the results were more shocking. Between the two phases of the experiment interest fell in Erik by 81% for dating websites and 76% for flatshare websites.

Erik said: “I was surprised by the social experiment results. The amount of people who didn't respond after my mental health problem was disclosed was very high, and I found this sad and disappointing.

Most people just didn't seem to understand and were ready to turn their backs rather than ask questions to try and gain an insight into the problem.

“Although I did receive some very negative responses, some were actually quite positive. These were mainly from people who had a friend or family member with a mental health problem, which seems to indicate that when a person knows someone with a mental illness they tend to be more understanding of the fact it can affect anyone and anyone can be of support.

“I think this experiment provides a strong call for people to talk to and be open to people with mental health problems. This could be a potential partner or flatmate, or a work colleague or friend. We need to get to know people and see beyond the mental illness.

Relationship expert Tracey Cox said: "The term 'mental illness' sounds off-putting in regards to potential partners, but the reality is one in four of us will experience some sort of mental illness like depression or anxiety. We need to move beyond the label and start realising that it's something that can affect us all."

Interestingly though, according to the survey most people would react positively if their partner revealed their mental health problem a few months into the relationship. One-quarter of people (27%) said their main reaction would be to want to find out more, another 18% said they would want to support them in any way they could, and 15% said they would feel happy their partner was able to tell them about their mental illness.

Time to Change Director Sue Baker said:“We know through research and anecdotal evidence that stigma and discrimination stops people engaging in everyday activities,going shopping, visiting the local pub, taking a holiday, talking openly with family about problems, the list is endless. In fact, one in three people with a mental health problem find stigma and discrimination a barrier to making new friendships and forming relationships.

“Our social experiment explores the reality of stigma and discrimination in everyday areas of life that many of us can take for granted. I commend Erik and the other experiment participants for taking part. Our ambition for this part of the campaign will help to demonstrate that it's the assumptions we make about mental health that hurt the most.

To watch Erikstory Don't Get Me Wrong and make your pledge to help end mental health prejudice today, please visit www.time-to-change.org.uk.