A local NHS mental health trust has welcomed new survey results published today, that show the public is broadly sympathetic towards people with mental health problems.
South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides specialist mental health and learning disability services to people in Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield, says the results are encouraging, but there is still a way to go.
The survey ‘Attitudes to Mental Illness 2009’ which was carried out by the Department of Health, showed that the vast majority of the public think that people with mental health problems deserve sympathy and that society needs to be more tolerant towards them (86 and 85 per cent respectively).
There were some improvements in attitudes towards people with mental health problems including:
• Almost three quarters (73 per cent) agreed that people with mental health problems should have the same rights to a job as anyone else – up from 66 per cent in 2008.
• 79 per cent also agreed that people with mental illness should not be
excluded from their neighbourhood – up from 74 per cent in 2008.
• 61 per cent of people agree that people with a mental illness are far less of a danger than most people suppose – compared to 57 per cent in 2008.
However, according to the survey some attitudes to mental illness have worsened: • 18 per cent of people thought that one of the main causes of mental illness was lack of self discipline and willpower – up from 14 per cent in 2008.
• In 2009 11 per cent of people said they would not want to live next door to someone with a mental health problem, an increase from 8 per cent since 1994.
The Trust’s chief executive Steven Michael said, "We are pleased to see that attitudes are changing but there is still a long way to go. What is very encouraging is that local people are obviously interested in increasing understanding as over 11,000 have joined us as members of our foundation trust. But stigma continues to be very damaging, it makes it harder for people to admit they have a problem and get the support they need. It can also mean people with mental health problems are treated with unwarranted fear and distrust."
He continued, "1 in 4 people experience mental health problems in the course of a year and it can affect any one of us. Mental health is just like physical health and people should not be made to feel ashamed to seek help if they need it – the attitude of friends, family, neighbours or colleagues can really make a difference. But the results of the survey carried out by the Department of Health are promising and I hope that attitudes to mental health continue to improve."
South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has recently been authorised as a Foundation Trust, which means it is now accountable to the local community via its members. Over 11,000 people have joined the organisation as members and can help shape how the organisation is run via a Member’s Council.