Challenging stigma in mental health: What we’ve learnt over 10 years

A look at progress and continuing barriers for “the work of a generation”: Challenging stigma in mental health, from Ruth Stone and Sue Baker of Time to Change Global

In the World Alzheimer Report 2019, ADI looked at how dementia-related stigma is defined and how we can better understand it through its relation to power, stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Within the report, some of the expert essays and case studies examined this further by shedding light on the complexity of stigma.

Ruth Stone, Global Communications and Digital Manager, and Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change Global, contributed the case study, ‘Challenging stigma in mental health: What we’ve learnt over 10 years’. The piece looks at progress and continuing barriers for what is so well described as “the work of a generation”.

Ending mental health stigma is the work of a generation. I think that’s the most important thing we’ve learnt since starting Time to Change more than 10 years ago. Stigma is deeply ingrained, through cultural norms, families, workplace culture, the media and even the words we speak. It is present at almost every level of society, which means our work takes time, perseverance, and a broad, flexible approach.

Time to Change is one of the most evidence-based social movement campaigns in the world. We have robust, independent evaluation in place to track progress and show the difference we are making. I am very proud to say attitudes are changing. Between 2007 and 2016, there was a 9.6% improvement in attitudes – that’s around 4.1 million adults in England with better attitudes towards mental health problems. Eleven percent more people say they would be willing to live with, work with or continue a relationship with someone with mental health problems. This research carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London shows levels of discrimination have also fallen. People report experiencing 7% less discrimination from family, 15% less discrimination from friends and 10% less discrimination in dating.

We cannot be sure the precise amount of social change due to our campaign. The work of many organisations and individuals has combined to drive positive change. But we are extremely proud to have been at the forefront of social change around mental health stigma and discrimination. More than 1,000 organisations have signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge. We’ve worked with more than 2,000 schools and there are over 7,000 Time to Change Champions speaking out to end stigma in their communities. While it is important to celebrate these huge steps, there is still a long way to go.

Time to Change is a growing social movement which aims to change the way we approach mental health, both in thinking and action, in the working place, with children and young people and within our communities. Learn more about Time to Change and Time to Talk Day