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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness


Changing Minds Campaign 1997 - 2003

The roots of stigmatisation against people with mental illness go back a long way. It has always been dangerous to be different. But times are changing; discriminating against people on the grounds of race, gender or beliefs is now unacceptable to society, and often against the law.

Following its highly successful "Defeat Depression" Campaign (1992 - 1996), the College felt that its next campaign should be to tackle the problem of stigmatisation of people with mental health problems.
In 1997 a working party was convened and a Strategy Document produced. It proposed goals, content and structure for a five-year long Campaign. The working party recommended that the Campaign should focus on six of the most common mental health problems:
  • Anxiety - affects more than 1 person in 10
  • Depression - affects 1 person in 4
  • Schizophrenia - affects 1 person in 100
  • Dementia - affects 1 person in 5 over 80
  • Alcohol and drug addiction - affects about 1 person in 3
  • Eating disorders - affects 1 person in 50
Target populations included doctors, children and young people, employers, the media and the general public. The aims of the Campaign were to increase public and professional understanding of mental health problems and to reduce stigma and discrimination.
"People suffering from mental disorders often attract fear, hostility and disapproval, rather than compassion, support and understanding," says Professor Arthur Crisp, Chairman of the Changing Minds Campaign. "Such stigmatisation not only causes people with mental health problems to feel isolated and unhappy, but may also prevent them receiving help and treatment."
Research carried out among the general public at the start of the campaign in 1998 showed that stigmatising attitudes were common. In particular:
  • Many people believed that those suffering from depression should "pull themselves together".
  • People with schizophrenia and alcohol addiction were seen as dangerous.
  • Anyone with a mental health problem was considered "difficult to talk to".
The results of this baseline survey were released at the launch of the Changing Minds Campaign, on 7th October 1998.
The Changing Minds Campaign closed on 7th October 2003, we are aware however that tackling the stigma of mental illness is an enduring task.

Resources, Surveys, Leaflets & Books:

The article answers questions such as ‘Are suicidal people mentally ill?’ and explores the suicidal state of mind. In particular, it examines our attitudes towards people who are suicidal, and challenges a number of negative thoughts about suicide and its prevention.

It emphasises that people expressing suicidal ideas should be listened to and taken seriously. Our reaction to them may – literally – make all the difference between life and death.

1998 and 2003 Survey Results

A randomised sample of 1700 people was interviewed in July 1998 - before the start of the campaign - by the Office of National Statistics. They were asked a series of eight questions about the six disorders which the campaign was tackling.


Second survey of public opinions concerning people with mental illnesses.

In July 2003 the nation-wide survey of public opinions concerning people with mental illnesses was repeated, again conducted by the Office for National Statistics on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ anti-stigma campaign.


Analysis of the results of this new survey show to what extent public attitudes towards mental illnesses have changed during the five years of the Campaign. Also, data from the two surveys has been combined to allow a more detailed analysis of the characteristics of people with negative attitudes towards those with mental illness.


“1 in 4” (2 minutes)
This arresting film (Certificate 15) was developed to be shown in the cinema to coincide with World Mental Health Day 2000. Aimed mainly at young adults aged 15 to 25, it uses some disturbing images to challenge our preconceptions about mental health.

1 in 4" reinforces the message that anyone can suffer from mental illness - "1 in 4 could be your brother, your sister. Could be your wife, your girlfriend... 1 in 4 could be your daughter... 1 in 4 could me... it could be YOU."

The film also features cocaine addiction, anorexia and depression.

Leaflets on the stigmatisation of the following mental disorders: 

Mental Health and Growing Up
This is the third edition of this popular publication which includes 36 factsheets covering a wide range of mental health issues
The aim is to provide practical and up-to-date information about the emotional, behavioural and psychiatric disorders which can affect children and young people.

Caring around the clock
Caring around the clock Booklet with information and support for young people
This publication is a colourful, illustrated 16-page booklet designed to help young carers cope with the pressures they face.
'You are not on your own', it says and encourages them to seek help from people close to them as well as their key worker and doctor; to make time for themselves; to go to school regularly; and to let other people know when things are getting on top of them.
'Don't blame yourself', it advises, and alerts them to the possibility that the person they care for could be suffering from depression. 'Your parent is ill and needs the help of a doctor, just as they would if they had a bad heart or diabetes'. A case history of postnatal depression illustrates the problem from the perspective of a mother and her young son.
This booklet was sponsored by Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust in support of the Changing Minds campaign.

Changing Minds book
Edited by Rosalind Ramsay, Anne Page, Tricia Goodman and Deborah Hart

Price: £10.00
Format: paperback
Dec 2002
ISBN 1 901242 88 9
Work and Mental Health “Work and Mental Health – An employers’ guide”

Edited by Doreen Miller, Maurice Lipsedge & Paul Litchfield


Price: £20.00
Format: paperback
October 2002
ISBN 1 901242 85 4


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