According to new statistics published today by mental health anti-stigma campaign group Time To Change, 74% of people with experience of a less common mental health problem say fear of stigma and discrimination stops them from doing the things they want to do.
If I asked you to guess whether mental health stigma in this country was worsening or getting better, chances are you’d say the latter. As increasing numbers of people open up about their experiences of common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, it seems like it’s more acceptable than ever to seek help and support. But that rose-tinted depiction of the mental health conversation only tells half of the story.
According to new research out today, 27% of people with a less common mental health problem feel that discrimination against them has increased in the last 10 years.
The survey, published by mental health anti-stigma campaign Time To Change, shows that people dealing with diagnoses including schizophrenia, personality disorders and bipolar disorder feel like they’re being “left behind” by the mental health awareness movement.
The survey of 4,000 people found that, despite a general improvement in public attitudes towards, and knowledge of, more common mental health conditions (84% of people said they at least knew a little bit about depression, for example), stigma and misunderstanding remain rife for those lesser-known conditions.
“Mental health is arguably being spoken about more than ever before and that is an overwhelmingly positive thing. However, we need to ensure that this shift in attitudes occurs across the board and benefits people with a wide range of diagnoses,” says Jo Loughran, director of Time To Change.
“The reality of living with conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder remains largely understood. We’re calling on people to see the bigger picture – to listen to people’s experiences and understand what it’s like to live with a mental health problem.”
Besides the fact that public understanding and stigma can serve as a barrier to diagnosis, it can also make life with a mental health condition a lot harder to navigate. The new data also revealed that, for 74% of people with experience of a less common mental health problem, fear of stigma and discrimination stops them from doing the things they want to do.
As someone living with OCD, I know all too well the impact public misconceptions and incorrect stereotypes of a condition can have. The assumption that people with OCD are just being “neat freaks” who “enjoying cleaning” meant that, when I started experiencing symptoms, I was unable to recognise them for what they actually were.
And I know how ‘lucky’ I am to just be dealing with these kinds of misconceptions – for people dealing with less common mental health conditions such as borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia, these misconceptions can be toxic and discriminatory.
“Initially when I was diagnosed I was thrilled. I identified the symptoms and once I had the diagnosis, I could finally get help,” explains Billie Dee Gianfrancesco, who has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and features in Time To Change’s campaign. “But then I googled it and it was horrible to see how people talk about people with personality disorders. I read things around how to get out of a relationship with someone with a personality disorder, how toxic we are, how to spot and get rid of us. It made me feel too ashamed to tell anyone.”
Time To Change’s new campaign See The Bigger Picture aims to challenge the common misconceptions about the lesser known mental health conditions, in an effort to increase public awareness and fight the disparity between these conditions and more “accepted” ones such as anxiety and depression.
To learn more about the individuals featured in the film, and read about Time To Change’s new campaign, please click here.