Mentally Ill

Health written question – answered on 18th October 2007.

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Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Shadow Minister (Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the implications of stigma surrounding mental health in England; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) (Care Services)

The Department recognises that the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental illness is a major social problem. People with mental health problems are one of the most excluded social groups in society, with fewer than a quarter in employment. They can find themselves excluded from education, health care and community participation. People with mental illness who disclose their condition can find themselves shunned by neighbours and colleagues while some do not disclose their illness to family and friends. For many people with mental illness, a diagnosis of mental illness can have a worse impact upon their lives than their symptoms.

The Department is funding a five-year programme, Shift, through the Care Services Improvement Programme to tackle the stigma and discrimination which surrounds mental illness. Shift is working with various bodies, and its focus this year is on the media and employers. On World Mental Health day on 10 October, Shift launched guidance for employers on improving their recruitment and retention processes for people with mental health problems.

The Department and Shift are working with the mental health charity sector consortium, Moving People, which has recently won £18 million from the Big Lottery and Comic Relief to run a four-year anti-stigma and mental health promotion campaign. The details of how the Government will support this initiative, which involves Mind, Rethink, Mental Health Media and the Institute of Psychiatry, are being formulated.

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Posted on 19 Oct 2007 11:13 am (Report this annotation)

18 million is a lot of money, I would very much like to see the business plan on how they intend on spending this money.

When soaps like Eastenders are still producing storylines like the recent one about Steven Wicks is it any wonder that the general public still fear those with mental illness as being bad and dangerous, not very encouraging.

Or there portrayal of Stacey Slater's mum, where all Stacey can say to her is "keep taking the tablets mum" The two actors involved in this storyline won an award from mental health media, whatever next?
Is there any hope for any of us if the public are persuaded that medication is the answer to all our woes

Medication is not always the solution and the consequences of the side effects are having a huge detrimental impact on many who are subjected to taking them, causing liver damage, and other serious long term medical conditions.

I do hope that SHIFT get a shift on and hold the scriptwriters and editors etc to task over such an important issue. When they have such an outreaching influence on those who watch and read this damaging material

lucy toynbee
Posted on 21 Oct 2007 8:26 pm (Report this annotation)

I agree, Molijana - £18 million is a lot of money. I find it difficult to see how the money can be used to eradicate the stigma of mental illness.
But the department of health needs to be clear about where the stigma is coming from and why, as do we all.
If it transpires that some mental illnesses are really brain diseases which can be successfully treated with medication, then we should not shy away from this. I would suggest that this model makes mental illness a physical disorder and from that perspective not so different from other physical disorders such as MS which is much less stigmatised than schizophrenia.
I will stick with schizophrenia.... I believe that there may be many people in the community who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia who are extremely succesfully treated with anti psychotic medication and, partly because of the stigma, we do not hear much about them. They don't want to advertise their diagnosis because they are leading perfectly 'normal' lives and doing 'normal' jobs 'normally'.
Of course there are other people with this diagnosis who seem to suffer horrible side effects and get little if any benefit from medication.
The risk is that the service users who are most articulate and honerably committed to trying to improve mental health services seem to have a particular anti medication stance. In fact, it is the medication that prevents many people with schizophrenia having to face that stigma as with the medication no one would know they have schizophrenia.
As with cancer, the available treatments suit some people and not others. Like wise, some people get such awful side effects from chemotherapy that they may prefer to learmn to cope with their symptoms without medical treatment. This is their right. Likewise there needs to be a big shift in how mental health services perceive mental health service users. The pros and cons of the various psychotropic medications should be frankly discussed with clients and they can make informed decisions about how they want to proceed.
Of course, the more authority service users have also leads to them accepting more responsibility for their mental illness and how it impacts upon themselves and others.
Lucy Toynbee