Thousands of Scots with mental illness are not seeking help due to stigma, with many fearing they will be viewed as dangerous and unpredictable, according to new analysis.
See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, said that mental illness continues to be unfairly stigmatised and is urging people to change their “outdated stereotypes and preconceptions”.
It is calling on members of the public to rethink their words and actions when it comes to mental illness, and show more compassion towards those who struggle.
The call comes after research first published in autumn 2022 found that 92% of people with severe, complex and enduring mental illness believe that members of the public view them as unpredictable and almost eight in ten (78%) think they are viewed as dangerous.
And almost nine in ten (87%) said they believe that the public see them as being to blame for their problems.
See Me director Wendy Halliday said: “A lot of public stigma stems from outdated stereotypes and preconceptions relating to mental illness.
“In reality, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and many are able to live full, independent lives with the right support and understanding.
“The actions of others, including the language used around mental health and mental illness, continue to prevent thousands of Scots from reaching out and seeking help when they need it, and we know that has to change.”
To be eligible for the study, which received almost 350 responses, those taking part had to have a mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar or related disorder, obsessive-compulsive or a related disorder, or a feeding or eating disorder.
The Scottish Mental Illness Study, from See Me and the Mental Health Foundation, was carried out in collaboration with Vox Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University.
Those affected by stigma include poet Angela McCrimmon, 46, from Livingston in West Lothian, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19.
She said that people’s attitudes hold her back from opening up about her mental health.
The See Me volunteer said: “I know that with mental illness, you can’t help it, you can do your best to manage it as best you can.
“So I shouldn’t feel like I can’t be honest with other people – but there are still times where I’m unsure of what their reaction will be, because of the stigma that’s still out there.
“The way people speak about mental health still is frustrating. Something I’ve been witness to is people who know I’m somebody who lives with a mental illness speaking about other people very derogatively – their ‘mad’ neighbour up the road, for instance. ‘Don’t got into their house, you might not come out alive,’ – things like that.
“I had a neighbour who wasn’t known by his name any more – he was ‘the schizo’, which was awful.
“When I hear people speaking like that, I’ve had to hold back, because I think, if you have that opinion, what’s to stop you talking like that about me? It makes me quite guarded.”
She added: “It would make a huge difference if we could get to a stage where there’s no difference between your mental health and your physical health.”
See Me is managed by SAMH (the Scottish Association for Mental Health) and the Mental Health Foundation, and funded by Scottish Government.
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