Unemployment is hitting the mentally ill twice as hard as it is the general population, a study has found.
Across Europe, people with mental health problems have been disproportionately affected by the recession, said researchers.
Between 2006 and 2010, their unemployment rate had risen by 5.5% compared with 2.7% for those unaffected by mental illness.
In the later year, unemployment in Europe stood at 18.2% for people with mental health problems and 9.8% for other members of the population.
The findings, reported in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, are based on data collected from more than 20,000 people in 27 European Union countries.
Lead author Dr Sara Evans-Lacko, from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, said: “The economic recession has had enormous impact across much of Europe, but there is little information about the specific impact of the recession on groups who are already vulnerable to social exclusion, specifically people with mental health problems.
“This is the first study to show that the European economic crisis has had a profound impact on people with mental health problems, compared to those without.”
Men with mental health problems were especially affected. In 2010, 21.7% of them - more than a fifth - were unemployed.
Stigmatising attitudes, especially beliefs about the dangerousness of people with mental disorders, were an important factor contributing to the trend, said the researchers.
Co-author Professor Graham Thornicroft, also from the Institute of Psychiatry, said: “Our study emphasises that one important implication of stigma and discrimination is exclusion from employment.
“During periods of economic recession, attitudes to people with mental health problems may harden, further deepening social exclusion. Governments need to be aware of these risks, and employers need to be aware of their legal duty to comply with the Equality Act to support people with mental health problems coming into, and staying in, employment.”
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