Too many people with mental distress experience crime or victimisation as a result of hostility and prejudice towards mental ill health.
This is called "disability hate crime", and includes any criminal offence that is motivated by hostility based on the victim's disability, or presumed disability. Courts have a duty to treat these crimes more seriously and increase the sentence for any offence where there is evidence of hostility based on disability.
Update: Read Mind's response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission's inquiry into disability-related harrassment.
It all started when my Mum had a nervous breakdown. People used to tease my Mum [...] I thought they were good neighbours, but then they found out my personal business. My son's been strangled, frogmarched, dragged by his ear. We've had our door spat upon, rubbish left outside our door. I'm so worried about my son growing up in that hostile atmosphere. The flat upstairs have purposefully flooded us. How much longer will it go on? The police come, but they don't take it seriously [...] At the police station, if they hear "mental health problems" then they are against you.
What's the issue?
Currently, many hate crimes go unreported so perpetrators are not brought to justice and victims continue to experience crime, abuse and harassment.
People sometimes feel unable to report these crimes to the police or they may not realise that the abuse they are experiencing is a crime. When crimes are reported, the response by criminal justice agencies is sometimes poor.
What Mind is calling for
A hate crime strategy
Mind has been lobbying Government to introduce a comprehensive strategy to tackle hate crime. In October 2009, the Cross-Government Hate Crime Action Plan was published. While Mind welcomes this publication, the Plan does not go far enough to address the issues relating to mental health.
Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission demonstrates that both people with learning disabilities and those with mental health problems are more at risk of targeted violence than other groups. Yet while the Government's Plan includes a number of measures to tackle hate crime against people with learning disabilities, there is nothing targeted specifically people with mental distress.
Mind continues to call for the Government to introduce urgently-needed measures to tackle hate crime against people with mental distress, including:
Training on hate crime and mental health awareness for all frontline staff, including police, witness care staff and legal professionals.
Funding and support for third-party reporting schemes so people can report crimes in an environment where they feel safe.
A public campaign to raise awareness about hate crime and where to go to report it.
Action to tackle stigma and prejudice towards mental health within society.
You can help
Tell us your experiences - Mind wants to hear from you if you have experience of crime or harassment because of your mental health.
Contact your MP to tell them about the shocking levels of crime experienced by people with mental distress, and ask them to push the Government to introduce specific measures to tackle mental health hate crime. Find your MP's contact details.
Find out more
Disabled people's experiences of targeted violence and hostility - research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Read the summary.
Policy for prosecuting cases of disability hate crime policy - by the Crown Prosecution Service