Got mental health problems? You’re dumped
Posted Thursday 5 March 2009
It's a not-so-happy Valentines for some...
A partner is four times more likely to leave you because of a mental health condition like depression than because of a physical disability. That's just one of the findings in new research for Time to Change, the nationwide campaign to end the stigma faced by people with mental health problems. It shows that our lack of acceptance of mental health problems extends well beyond the boardroom, and into the bedroom.
And attitudes to severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia are even worse. The survey, which asked people about issues that would make them break off a romantic relationsip found that 20 per cent of British women wouldn't stay with someone if they were diagnosed with schizophrenia, yet only per cent of them would break up with someone who became disabled and needed to use a wheelchair.
It demonstrates that mental health conditions are still very stigmatised, and the stigma isn't just in the workplace, but in the closest relationships. A separate survey of almost 4000 people affected by mental health problems found that stigma is often very close to home, with nearly 30 per cent saying they'd experienced prejudice about their mental health from friends and family.
Luckily it isn't that way for everyone. Many do stick by a partner who has a mental health condition and wouldn't dream of leaving them because of it.
Dave Stocks, who had a breakdown and gets depression, says:
"I think people do feel awkward when they know you have a mental, rather than physical illness. They're embarrassed, don't know what to say to you. Some of my mates reacted like that. But Jools, my girlfriend, she's been great. We've been through some tough times together, but even in my darkest days she stood by me. It can be hard though - I told her it might be easier for her if she didn't tell her friends about my problems, just to make life easier. We both know that mental health conditions are stigmatised, but it hasn't stopped us. Being able to be open about it has actually helped my recovery. We're strong and happier now than ever, having been through this together".
Stuart Baker Brown, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia says:
"I have been well for a few years now and made a good recovery, but the stigma attached to having a schizophrenia diagnosis still follows me around. Dating can be hard at the best of times, but it can be even harder when you're facing outdated attitutdes about mental health conditions. I met one woman, and everything was going well, we planned to meet up for a date. Then she found out about my diagnosis before I had a chance to tell her and that was it - she just didn't turn up. I later discovered she was worried about her children. She'd assumed I might be dangerous. She was wrong, the idea that someone is going to be a danger just because they have had schizophrenia is a myth. It was really hurtful. I've met somebody new now, and she sees the real me, not just the label. Thankfully some people can see through the stigma and see the person".
Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, and improve the nation's wellbeing. Led by Rethink, Mind and Mental Health Media and backed up with £16m from the Big Lottery Fund and £2m from Comic Relief. The campaign has a string of celebrity supporters, such as Alastair Campbell, Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax and Patsy Palmer, all of whom have experienced mental health problems. It also has the backing of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.