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Views on Mental Health Improving, Study Finds

Update Date: Jun 12, 2014 02:55 PM EDT

The stigma surrounding mental health has existed for centuries. Due to improved understanding and increased public awareness, people's views on mental health have improved significantly. In a new study headed by a team from King's College London in the United Kingdom, the researchers found that one of England's mental health programs called Time to Change, has had a positive influence on people's attitudes regarding mental health.

For this study, the team from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at the College examined 10-years of data on people's attitudes toward mental illnesses. The data were collected before and after the campaign, Time to Change started in 2009, from 2003 to 2013. Every year, roughly 1,700 people were interviewed. The surveys assessed the people's attitudes toward mental health in two sections, which were "prejudice and exclusion" and "tolerance and support for community care." Mind and Rethink Mental Illness heads the national program.

"Attitudes towards mental health have been improving very slowly for the past decade. Our study shows that the Time to Change campaign has provided a significant boost to this upwards trend with attitudes improving more than we would have otherwise expected. Unlike other countries in Europe, where attitudes have worsened following the recession, it's extremely encouraging to see that attitudes in the UK are continually improving, no doubt in part due to the Time to Change campaign," the lead author of the study, Dr. Sara Lacko-Evans, from the Health Service and Population Research (HSPR) Department at the IoP at King's, said reported by Medical Xpress.

The researchers added that after the start of Time to Change, there was a significant improvement in people's views toward prejudice and exclusion. People's attitudes toward tolerance and support for community care increased slightly; however, the researchers stated that the increase was not significant. Overall, females who were from a higher socio-economic group were more likely to hold these positive views.

"This is really encouraging further evidence of positive changes in attitudes in England. It is always difficult to estimate where we might have been without the influence of Time to Change and all of our campaign supporters, but this data suggests that we would not have seen these levels of change if the campaign had not been active with social marketing and local events and activity," Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said.

The study, "Effect of the Time to Change anti-stigma campaign on trends in mental-illness-related public stigma among the English population in 2003-2013: an analysis of survey data," was published in The Lancet.

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