Innovative £1.9 Million partnership to challenge stigma and discrimination begins today

Three leading mental health charities in Wales are joining forces today to launch a new national programme, “Time to Change Wales”, which aims to challenge the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health problems.

The campaign is being led by Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru and funded by the Big Lottery Fund Cymru, Comic Relief and the Welsh Government. The programme aims to achieve real and lasting change in Wales and to improve attitudes to mental health by building on the success of the Time to Change campaign in England.

Time to Change Wales will include three key strands:

• A high-profile, national social marketing and media work to challenge the negative attitudes that can surround mental health, and raise awareness of the campaign;

• People with lived experience of mental health problems delivering anti-discrimination training to the people whose attitudes to mental health matter most, including employers and community leaders;

•A range of community activities that will bring together people with and without lived experience of mental health problems, to empower people with experience of mental distress to challenge the discrimination they face every day.

Time to Change has been actively working in England since 2007 to tackle the stigma surrounding mental illness and improve public knowledge, attitude and behaviour around this issue. The programme has already seen positive change in England with a 4% reduction in reported discrimination and a 2.2% improvement in public attitudes since its launch.

Hafal Expert Patient Trainer (EPT) Dave Smith, who is on the Time to Change Wales project board said: “The story I always tell about stigma relates to one occasion when I got my hair cut. The hairdresser said: “Day off work?” I said: “Yes, I have every Monday off.” She asked me what I did for a living: I told her I worked at a mental health project helping people to recover from serious mental illness. She said that was a good line of work to be in and asked: “What got you into that?” I told her that I had a mental illness myself and suddenly the speed of the scissors literally doubled! She couldn’t get me out of the shop fast enough!

“During the campaign there will be a strong emphasis on combating discrimination by giving the public the opportunity to hear the stories of people with lived experience of serious mental illness. The campaign will not be about criticising the public for their lack of knowledge on mental health matters; it will be all about giving them good information and providing opportunities for understanding. There will be no finger wagging.

“I have seen the positive effect that promoting understanding has on people not familiar with the issues surrounding serious mental illness though my work with Hafal’s Expert Patient Trainers. Our EPTs are people with experience of a serious mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who have made huge strides in their recovery and have now decided to become mental health trainers in order to share their thoughts on issues like discrimination and recovery so that others can learn from their experiences they have been through.”

Recent findings show that:

•The overall cost of mental health problems in Wales is an estimated £7.2 billion a year.
• 46% of people in Wales think that those who have experienced depression are unsuitable to work as primary school teachers.
• 66% of people in Wales would not rent a room in a shared flat to someone with a mental health condition.
• Fewer than four in 10 employers would recruit someone with a mental health problem.
• Over a quarter of people think that those with mental health problems should not have the same rights to a job as anyone else.
• Black people were 40 per cent more likely to be turned away than white people when they asked for help from mental health services.

Ewan Hilton, Chief Executive of Gofal said: “Experience of stigma and discrimination are stories we hear every day from the people who use our services – experiences that prevent people from seeking help, contribute to people becoming more unwell and prevent people from living fulfilled lives. Yet we know that what drives people to discriminate is built on ignorance and myth. We are thrilled that with the support of the Welsh Government, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund and in partnership with fellow mental health charities we will be able to change this situation in Wales for the better.”

Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Hafal added: “Hafal is delighted to be working with our friends in Gofal and Mind Cymru on this exciting initiative. Hafal’s members, people with a serious mental illness and their families, look forward to joining with our partners and others across Wales to build a mass movement of service-users dedicated to removing discrimination.”

Lindsay Foyster, Director of Mind Cymru said: “We know that campaigns to tackle discrimination against people with mental health problems have had real success in England and Scotland through the work done by Time to Change and See Me. This partnership gives a great opportunity for Wales to build on this work and make a positive difference to the lives of people who experience mental distress.”

Karen, from South Wales said: “I was employed within the care sector for 10 years when I became ill. My employers and colleagues saw the signs as my depression progressed. Nobody even asked if I was ok, people just shied away from it and I ended up on long term sick and then losing my job. An anti-stigma campaign could have helped to dispel the myths and fears around mental ill health and start on the path to ending prejudice within the workplace.”

To get a flavour of what you can expect to see in Wales, visit www.time-to-change.org.uk