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NEW GOVERNMENT DRIVE TO END MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA

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The government has called for a major cultural shift in attitudes ...
The government has called for a major cultural shift in attitudes

towards people with mental health problems.

A new report*, published by the ODPM's social exclusion unit, outlines

how for the first time, action will be taken to address the full range of

issues affecting people with mental health problems, rather than

focusing solely on medical needs.

Jeff Rooker, minister for social exclusion, said: 'One in six adults

suffer from common mental health problems, such as depression or

anxiety, at any time. Yet this report shows people with mental health

problems are one of the most socially excluded groups. Too often,

they do not have the support they need to participate fully in society,

yet we know that employment and community activities are important

in promoting both mental and physical wellbeing.

'That's why we're taking action to increase opportunities,

particularly in employment, but also addressing housing, education,

family needs and community participation. Many people with mental

health problems do want to work, yet fewer than a quarter actually

do. They are nearly three times as likely to be in debt and are more

likely to live alone and in poorly maintained accommodation. The

government is determined to address these inequalities.'

Health minister Rosie Winterton said: 'From speaking to people with

mental health problems throughout the country I know how vital it is

that they are properly supported to gain or retain employment and

access education, advice on finances, legal rights and other

community facilities and appropriate health and social care services.

'This report will also help these services to ensure that levels of

current investment are used wisely and help to raise awareness of

mental health problems in these areas.

'We are working across government with all departments, and also with

businesses and the voluntary and community sector to help promote a

positive culture in relation to mental health. Our aim is to ensure

that people with mental health problems can get access to ordinary

mainstream opportunities.'

Rosie Winterton will be launching a five-year strategic plan to

tackle stigma and discrimination on mental health grounds led by

the National Institute for Mental Health on 23 June. This wide-ranging

program includes:

  • Analysing Ofcom's complaints data on broadcast media coverage of

    mental health and raise awareness of how people can make complaints

    about stigmatising or inaccurate portrayals and reporting;

  • Developing resources and best practice guidelines for reaching

    young people, the public sector, private and other sector employers,

    and the media, with support from across government and voluntary

    sector organisations;

  • Setting up a speakers bureau, which will recruit, train and support

    people with mental health problems to be spokespeople for the

    programme and get involved in training and development for target

    groups of people.

    The report by the social exclusion unit sets out a far-reaching,

    sustained programme, involving over 20 government departments,

    agencies and other organisations, working to achieve a future where

    people with mental health problems have the same opportunities as any

    other citizen. This has already been backed by£2.7m of government

    funding:

  • £1.1m this year from the Department of Health for a strengthened

    programme to tackle stigma and discrimination;

  • £1.5m over two years from the Department of Trade and Industry's

    Phoenix Fund to support those with mental health problems

    interested in enterprise and self-employment;

  • £155,000 from the Home Office and the National Institute for Mental

    Health in England to fund new mental health training for police

    officers;

  • £175,000 for a social inclusi on unit based at the National

    Institute of Mental Health's London development centre to be involved

    in implementing the report's programme for action.

    The report identifies opportunities to realign the government's£140m

    funding for vocational and day services in order to promote

    employment opportunities and foster greater social inclusion.

    Jobcentre Plus staff will receive better training on mental health

    issues. Earlier this year, the Department of Health ring-fenced£22m

    for social services at local authority level to support the capital costs

    associated with implementing the SEU's report.

    Richard Brook, chief executive of Mind, welcomed the SEU report,

    saying: 'The day-to-day work of Mind brings us into contact with the

    many and varied inequalities faced by people with mental health

    problems. Widespread prejudices, from being denied insurance to

    being shunned by neighbours, have a massive negative effect on

    people's quality of life.

    'This report is a positive move towards starting to balance out some

    of these injustices. By looking in depth at people's experiences in

    all areas of life, the government now has the opportunity to move on

    and directly address their most immediate needs and the inequalities

    they face.'

    Notes

    1. The report 'Mental Health and Social Exclusion' is available here.

    The wide-ranging action plan is summarised in a separate document

    below. A cross-government team overseen by ministers will drive the

    implementation of the action plan, while an independent advisory

    group will advise on progress and publish an annual report.

    2. The report was commissioned by the prime minister and the deputy

    prime minister in March 2003 to consider what more can be done to

    enable adults with mental health problems to enter and retain work

    and secure the same opportunities for social participation as the

    general population.

    3. It is the outcome of a wide-ranging study that has drawn on:

  • A detailed review of literature and research;

  • Consultations with people who have experienced mental health

    problems and those who work in the field - the written consultation

    attracted over 900 responses;

  • Four local area research studies to provide an in-depth

    understanding of delivery issues;

  • Over 50 visits to schemes that are already tackling the problems

    highlighted in this report.

    4. Jeff Rooker and Rosie Winterton launched the report during a visit

    to BT's offices to see how the company is supporting staff with

    mental health problems, to the benefit of both the business and its

    employees.

    5. Common mental health problems, such as depression, affect up to

    one in six adults at any one time. GPs spend a third of their time

    on mental health issues. Severe mental health problems such as

    schizophrenia are relatively rare, affecting around one in 200 adults

    each year.

    6. The social exclusion unit is part of the ODPM's tackling

    disadvantage group. The SEU was set up by the prime minister in

    1997 to find joined-up solutions to complex problems.

    7. SEU is also working on reports on Jobs and Enterprise in Deprived

    Areas and Impacts and Trends in Social Exclusion. These are due for

    publication later this year.

    'Mental Health and Social Exclusion' - summary of report action plan

    The agreed action points from the report falls into six categories:

    Stigma and discrimination

  • a sustained programme to challenge discrimination against people

    with mental health problems to be launched next week, better

    co-ordinated across government and the voluntary sector;

  • analyse Ofcom's complaints data on broadcast media coverage of

    mental health and raise awareness of how people can make complaints

    about stigmatising or inaccurate portrayals and reporting.

  • prac tical teaching resources to challenge stigma around mental

    health;

  • promoting best practice in the public sector.

    The role of health and social care services in tackling social

    exclusion

  • implementing evidence-based practice on employment, working towards

    an employment adviser for everyone with severe mental health

    problems;

  • improved access in primary care to advice on employment and

    community activities;

  • redesigning mental health day services to promote inclusion;

  • strengthened training on social inclusion for health and social

    care staff;

  • working with the criminal justice system and the police on mental

    health issues.

    Employment

  • improved training on mental health issues for Jobcentre Plus staff;

  • support for those interested in enterprise and self-employment;

  • clarifying benefit rules for people wanting to return to work;

  • improved support for employers and job retention.

    Supporting families and community participation

  • targeted family support for parents with mental health problems and

    their children;

  • improved support to access education and training opportunities;

  • removal of unnecessary barriers to community roles such as jury

    service.

    Getting the basics right

  • new guidance to housing authorities on lettings and stability;

  • improved access to financial and legal advice, and affordable

    transport.

    Making it happen

  • a cross-government team to drive implementation, overseen by

    ministers;

  • an independent advisory group to advise the government on progress

    and publish an annual report;

  • local implementation led jointly by primary care trusts and local

    authorities;

  • better use of the expertise in the voluntary and community sector.

    * The report is available here.

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