People severely affected by mental illness report discrimination is widespread in Jersey.

A new survey by the charity Focus on Mental Illness, hosted by 4Insight to ensure independence, was completed by 64 people severely affected by mental illness, including diagnosis of anxiety disorder, clinical depression, personality disorder, eating disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The survey revealed:

  • Three in four people (75.4%) felt that levels of stigma towards people severely affected by mental illness has not improved in the last decade
  • An overwhelming majority of 91.7% have been treated differently (in a negative way) due to their mental illness
  • 8 in 10 people (87.5%) reported that the fear of being stigmatised or discriminated against had stopped them things they want to do: accessing mental health care (63.3%), being close to family (63.3%), disclosing mental health issues to friends or family (61.2%), applying for a job or promotion at work (57.10%) and seeking help for a mental health problem (55.10%).

More positively, 66.1% of people agreed that stigma toward those with common mental health problems has decreased in the last decade. Unfortunately, this has not extended to people severely affected by mental illness, whose condition is “…often so debilitating that their ability to engage in functional and occupational activities is severely impaired.” (PHE, 2018).

Focus on Mental Illness is calling on the government to put anti-stigma and discrimination work at the heart of its public mental health programmes, with a focus on those living with less well understood mental illnesses. The charity has committed a renewed focus on tackling stigma and discrimination of people living with mental illness by working with our user participation group, Focus UP to:

  • Continue our research by surveying stigma and discrimination annually, to guarantee up-to-date picture of changing public views.
  • Target our Mental Health First Aid Training to where it is needed the most
  • Develop training with the aim of increasing understanding of stigma and addressing discrimination
  • Create a visual ‘campaign’ to help develop understanding of different mental illnesses.

Liz Kendrick-Lodge, Co-Executive Director of Focus on Mental Illness, said:

“The conversation around mental health has evolved significantly in the last ten years yet, despite this, stigma and discrimination continue to have a direct impact on the lives of people severely affected by mental illness. Whilst it is positive to see a reduction in stigma and discrimination of more common mental health problems, we must ensure that we don’t exclude islanders severely affected by mental illness from the conversation about mental health this world mental health day.”.

Izzy, who had a diagnosis of a psychotic episode and is a Focus UP volunteer, said:

“My diagnosis has not prevented me from continuing my studies as a student doctor. I believe it is so important to combat discrimination or to ‘break the stigma’ surrounding mental illness as people living with mental illness are equally valuable and deserving of opportunity as someone without mental illness. Mental illness can cause major struggles at different points in one’s life but this doesn’t mean that you can’t reach your goals or potential and I believe a different attitude from the whole community in Jersey and beyond needs to be established so that people living with mental illness feel they can reach this as well as feeling empowered. I think this stigma survey highlights how we still have a long way to go in ensuring people living with mental illness feel like they have this equal opportunity even if this means sometimes requiring more support, which is nothing to be ashamed of.”

A survey respondent said;

“When dealing with a mental illness you also have feelings of guilt and shame which would be made easier if the general public had more awareness.”