The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) in Kings College London recently found that there is a huge disconnect between the treatment of men and women when it comes to discussing mental health issues. Even though awareness campaigns such as ‘Time-to Change’ anti-stigma campaign have recently resulted in a sharp decline in stigma associated with mental health in women, the support and help that women receive still surpasses that of men which highlights gender discrimination. It was also found that both genders feel comfortable in sharing their problems with women more than discussing it to men, inferring that women are better at mental problems recognition.

The aim behind the study was to observe changes in public perception towards people with mental health problems as an after effect of the Time-to-Change campaign in England. The study analyzes the knowledge, change in attitude, desires in social distancing and over all change in the stigma associated with mental health from 2009 to 2015.

About The Time-To-Change Campaign

Even though mental health issues have gained prominence and exposure over the past few years, it is still viewed with prejudice and preconceived negative notions. To counteract such public perception, this campaign was launched in order to create awareness of mental health problems and help rectify the negative mindset of people.

The initiatives the campaign offers include anti-stigma training seminars where future medical practitioners will be offered guidance and training on how to help such people. Furthermore, social media marketing and annual mass participation events would work towards creating an open dialogue about mental health diseases to create understanding and awareness.

According to the surveys they conducted, 8.3% improvement of public perception has been achieved. Furthermore, between 2009-2014, people who are willing to admit that they know someone with mental health problems rose from 58% to 65%. Working alongside the researchers in Kings College, a direct correlation between the campaign and mental health acceptance was observed.

To better understand this correlation, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience in Kings College London developed a study. They wanted to understand how the stigma has reduced from 2009 to 2015 and used a nationally representative sample of adults and applied a survey method to carry out longitudinal trends to understand the results. The outcomes highlighted a higher increase in reported contact from 2009 to 2015, more impact and altered attitudes were observed in a demographic ranging from 25 to 45 years of age than in people from the ages of 65 and above. The results were able to also identify the type as well as impact such discriminatory actions have towards mental health service users. A qualitative study using 985 participants was made in 2013, out of which 84 were involved in recorded interviews. It indicated that the discrimination was observed with regards to welfare laws, mental and physical healthcare and behaviors of family and friends. Aggravation and distress was reportedly the common feeling experienced by such service users that directly affected their overall mental health.

Another interesting aspect was the gender differences that the study indicated. It was seen that women had a higher rate of reported contact with people suffering from mental health than men. One reason expanded upon by the Interim Director of Time-to-Change campaign was the societal expectations associated towards men. Boys are often told to hide their emotions, to not cry and ‘man up’. This is why many boys prefer to keep their feelings bottled up or ignore it, because of the assumption that they should not appear weak. Women, on the other hand, with emotions used synonymously with femininity, are better at expressing themselves and sharing their problems with others. This is one reason attributed to why men are less likely to self report mental health problems. Joe Loughran, Interim Director at Time-to-Change, says, ‘Mental health is just not on the radar for many men. The ultimate consequence of this can be seen in the tragically high suicide rate amongst men under 50.’

Since men who suffer from mental health problems are more likely to confide and seek help from females, the overall behavioral change in men caused by the campaign is not evident. This lack of reported contact can act as a barrier between awareness and acceptance of mental health problems amongst males. One way to tackle the gender discriminatory issue associated with mental health problems is to create gender-based approaches in their anti-stigma campaigns. These campaigns that specifically target men would work in highlighting the existence of such mental health problems amongst males and hopefully act as a catalyst in causing a change in their attitude and behavior.

In countries where there have been no such awareness campaigns, the stigma is still present and unchanged. With the average drop in discrimination from 42% to 28% (7% reduction in families, 15% drop in friends) and overall 7% increase in reporting, the study exemplifies the success Time-to-Change campaign has had in recent years. And yet there is still so much more that needs to be done. According to a report in 2013, 6,233 suicides cases were reported out of which 78% were male and 22% female. This shows how the people who suffer from mental health problems cannot be taken lightly and more efforts and resources need to be placed in order to help and improve their way of life.