Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

More see mental health problems as an 'illness'


More people see mental health problems as an illness like any other, according to a new survey.

The NHS Information Centre found 77% now view mental health in that way, up from 71% when the survey first took place in England in 1994.

But some negative views still exist, according to the Attitudes to Mental Illness 2011 report. For example, 17% of the 1,741 adults questioned in February and March think having a mental health facility in a residential area downgrades the neighbourhood.

Overall, the report said:

  • 77% said “mental illness is an illness like any other” compared to 71% in 1994.
  • 70% would be comfortable talking to their family and friends about their mental health, compared to 66% in 2009 (the first year this question was asked)
  • 43% would be uncomfortable talking their employer about their mental health, compared to 50% in 2010 (the first year this question was asked).
  • But some less favourable views were also held by people:
  • Only one in four would trust a woman who had ever been in a mental hospital to babysit a child.
  • 17% think having a mental health facility in a residential area downgraded the neighbourhood
  • 16% believe one of the main causes of mental illness is lack of self-discipline and will-power.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: “This report paints a mixed picture of attitudes towards people with mental health issues, which may be of particular interest given the number of high-profile awareness campaigns and celebrity stories about this subject.

“While the percentage of people who would feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member about their mental health has increased in recent times, the report also highlights less favourable views that still exist in the population - for example, one in six people believe a main cause of mental illness is lack of self discipline and will-power, about the same level as first reported in 1994.”

You can discuss this further on our Nursing Times forum, connect with your peers!



Readers' comments (3)

  • Adrian Bolt

    “More people see mental illness as an illness like any other”

    For “like any other” read “real” and for “real” read “physical”. Psychiatry has been trying to convince the general public that “mental illness” is a “real illness”, dictated by brain chemicals and the like ever since psychiatrists started trying to rest the business of psychiatry away first from the Freudian psychoanalysts in the early 19th century, who thought mental illness was all down to whether you were breast fed as a baby, and the ant-psychiatrists such as RD Lang in the 1960’s who thought it was all down to the environment and that a sane response to an insane world was itself insane.

    The Serotonin hypothesis for depression is often held up as proof if proof were needed that depression is indeed a physical illness and similar theories exist for all the major psychiatric disorders. Drug companies rely on this pseudo science for their sales but as Ben Gold acre has eloquently pointed out the serotonin hypothesis was always shaky and the evidence contradictory. For instance Tianeptine a selective serotonin enhancer, not an inhibitor (ie it decreases rather than increases levels of serotonin in the brain) has also been shown to have anti-depressant properties. However the serotonin hypothesis continues to catch the public imagination because it offers us a simple explanation and plays into our crudely dualistic world of good vs. bad, sane vs. mad, happy vs. sad.

    The wish and desire for people to be diagnosed with a “real” illness is no where more apparent than with diagnoses such as ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy) CSF (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Fibromyalgia for which there are no definitive blood tests, x rays or MRI scans, for which there are no cures other than symptomatic treatment of low mood, for which the only effective psychological treatment is CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and the symptoms of which almost exactly mirror the diagnosis of depression with somatic symptoms. But try suggesting to a sufferer of ME, CFS or Fibromyalgia that what they are actually suffering from is a mis-diagnosed case of depression with somatic (physical) symptoms and see what reaction you get.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm not sure if Eland realises that SSRI's are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, the emphasis being on the re-uptake- it stops the serotonin leaving the brain, or so I understand. This would surely have a similar effect to a drug that enhances Serotonin. But I am not a medic so can't say I understand these things, I am but an humble patient etc.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Adrian Bolt

    SSRi's are as you say selective re-uptake inhibitors they work by blocking the RE-uptake of serotonin by neurones thereby increasing the amount of available serotonin at the nerve synapses.

    an SSRI re-uptake enhancer by comparison would have the opposite effect by encouraging neurones to re-absorb serotonin at the synapse this would decrease the levels of serotonin available.

    However the effect on mood of re-uptake enhancers such as Tianeptine appear to be similar to serotonin re-uptake inhibitors which given the theory that more serotonin = happy, less serotonin = sad does not appear to make sense. Unless of course the theory is wrong and it is all a little more complicated than that.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.