Attitudes to mental illness survey shows some improvement but more work needed

iStock_000016599766XSmall survey questionnaire

The NHS Information Centre has published a report that presents the findings of a survey of attitudes towards mental illness among adults in England undertaken in 2011.

The questionnaire included a number of statements about mental illness. Respondents were asked to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with each statement. Other questions covered a range of other topics including descriptions of people with mental illness, relationships with people with mental health problems, personal experience of mental illness, and perceptions of mental health-related stigma and discrimination.

Key facts

The report highlighted some significant changes over time. Some key changes include:

  • The percentage of people agreeing that ‘Mental illness is an illness like any other’ increased from 71% in 1994 (the first year this question was asked) to 77% in 2011, although this figure is little changed in recent years.
  • The percentage saying they would be comfortable talking to a friend or family member about their mental health, for example telling them they had a mental health diagnosis and how it affects them, rose from 66% in 2009 (the first year the question was asked) to 70% in 2011.
  • The percentage saying they would feel uncomfortable talking their employer about their mental health was 43%, compared to 50% in 2010 (the first year this question was asked)

In addition, other results for 2011 include:

  • 25% of respondents agreed that ‘Most women who were once patients in a mental hospital can be trusted as babysitters’.
  • Agreement that one of the main causes of mental illness is a lack of self-discipline and will-power stands at 16%.
  • The percentage of people saying that locating mental health facilities in a residential area downgrades the neighbourhood stood at 17%.

Attitudes to mental illness: 2011 survey report. NHS Information Centre, 8 June 2011.

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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