Stigma and Discrimination

Stigma and discrimination can seriously affect the health, welfare and quality of life of people with mental health problems.

Under the 2010 Equality Act nobody is allowed to discriminate, harass or victimise another person if they have any protected characteristics. Mental health problems are included in the definition of disability, one of the nine protected characteristics.

Time to Change

Time to Change | let's end mental health discrimination

Time to Change is a campaign to end the stigma and discrimination that faces people with mental health problems.

Its primary aim is to empower people with mental health problems to feel confident talking about the issue without facing discrimination and so change public attitudes and behaviours. The campaign is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief and evaluated by the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London.


Shift logo

Shift was the government's initiative to tackle stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues in England. Its aim was to create a society where people who experience mental health problems enjoy the same rights and opportunities as other people. Although Shift closed in March 2011, resources should remain online until 'at least' 2013.

Open Up: the training and multi-media toolkit

This evaluation of the Mental Health Media anti-discrimination project, Open Up, was carried out by Patience Seebohm in 2003-2004 with service user participants in the project: Janet Betinis, Liz Hambrook, Wendy Mayne, Simon Myers and Rowland Urey. It involved a number of interviews with service users delivering and participating in the project, and found the experience had been extremely positive. There were a few areas which needed to be addressed and some progress was made as the programme developed.

Download Open Up evaluation report (Word, 345 KB)

Policy Watch: What's new

NICE publish guidance to 'tackle the stigma associated with mental illness'


New NICE guidance and quality standards aim to ensure users of mental health services have the best possible experience of care from the NHS. This quality standard describes markers of care that should contribute to improving the effectiveness, safety and experience of care for service users.

Download the guidance here

Download the quality standard here

Centre responds to proposals for a new mandatory power of possession in cases of anti-social behaviour


The Department of Communities and Local Government have recently consulted on the proposal for a new mandatory power of possession to be available to landlords where tenants are involved in serious housing-related anti-social behaviour. Following the riots in August, the Government also proposed an additional discretionary ground for possession to cover certain activity perpetrated anywhere in the UK. At the moment, the discretionary ground for possession is only available where the anti-social or criminal behaviour took place in the person’s locality.

The Centre's response details why do not support these proposals.

View the consultation paper here

Mental health problems trigger strongest prejudice, WHO report finds


Although one in four people will experience some sort of mental health problems during the course of their lives, users or ex-users of mental health services were found to be the most discriminated and stigmatized of all disabled people, often with deadly consequences. The World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Disability, the first major publication of its kind, gave an important account of the plight of people with mental health problems all over the world. The WHO found (ex-) users of mental health services to have a lower life expectancy and more chronic health conditions than the general population. People with long term mental health problems were more likely to be obese and have heart disease, high blood pressure, respiratory disease, diabetes, strokes, or breast cancer. They were also more prone to developing chronic health conditions at a younger age, and to dying sooner after diagnosis. Read the full report here

Web campaign to tackle discrimination in the media


A new campaign, WordsMatter has been set up to establish a systematic process for encouraging people to praise good, and criticise poor reporting on mental health issues. It comprises a web-based service which alerts subscribers to selected items, giving them the opportunity to contact the media concerned through the website.

Open letter to the Guardian from the Centre and other leading Mental Health experts


Open letter to Guardian suggesting changes to the welfare system are having 'devastating' impact, driving some to suicide attempts. The letters calls for a shift towards a more sympathetic and supportive system which takes into account the additional challenges people with mental health problems may face. You can read the letter here.

Attitudes towards mental illness


This year's report on attitudes towards mental illness is out at the Department of Health.

There have been some improvements, but also some still worrying views.

  • 77% of people regard mental illnesses as an illness "like any other"
  • 61% said People with mental illness are far less of a danger than most people suppose
  • 73% thoguht that people with mental health problems had the same right to employment as anyone else
  • almost a third of 16-to 34-year-olds believe it is easy to distinguish people with a mental illness from "normal people"
  • 11% of the population said they wouldn't want to live next door to a person they knew had a mental health problem
  • One in five people still believe that anyone with a history of mental health problems should be excluded from public office

Stigma and Discrimination survey by Rethink


Over 3000 people affected by mental health problems across England took part in the largest ever survey about stigma and discrimination. 87% of people said they had direct personal experience of stigma and discrimination. The results are presented in Stigma Shout.

Stigma Shout is helping to shape the Moving People programme and in particular the national anti-stigma marketing campaign.

MPs forced to hide mental health problems


A new report published today by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, with support from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Mind, Rethink and Stand to Reason, shows that one in five MPs has experience of a mental health problem but fears disclosing this because of the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues.

An anonymous questionnaire revealed that:

  • 27% had personal experience of a mental health problem
  • 94% had family or friends who have experienced a mental health problem
  • 86% of MPs said their job was stressful
  • 1 in 3 said work-based stigma and the expectation of a hostile reaction from the media and public prevented them from being open about mental health issues

The Parliamentary Group has made recommendations including the repeal of laws that prevent people with experience of mental health problems from standing for Parliament and enouraging MPs and Peers to be more open about their experiences of mental health problems.