Unlucky in love? Try dating with a mental illness
Posted Wednesday 15 September 2010
More people in England would turn down a date with someone who had a mental illness (57%) if they were single and looking for love online than someone they found unattractive (44%) or someone without the same interests (43%), a new survey as part of the Time to Change campaign  addressing mental health prejudice has found.
Also, people with a mental health problem are more likely to be turned down for a second date if they reveal they have a mental illness (44%) than those who disclose they have been in prison (42%), have a physical health problem (19%) or are unemployed (18%).
The survey  also looked at flatsharing and revealed 60% of us would not want to rent a room to someone with a mental health problem, more than three times as many as who would say no to someone with a physical health problem (18%).
The survey reflects findings from a unique social experiment  conducted by Time to Change which disturbingly shows that people with mental health problems face significant stigma and discrimination when trying to find love or share a flat.
The social experiment involved seven people with mental illnesses posting ads on dating and flatshare websites in two phases. At first the ads appeared without mention of their mental health problem, but after some weeks these were taken down and replaced with the exact same profile but this time with a line disclosing they had a mental illness.
When results from the two phases were compared, the social experiment showed an overall drop of 50% in interest in dating our participants and a 68% drop in interest in living with our participants when their mental illness was revealed.
For one participant, Erik Baurdoux, who is the face of the new Time to Change campaign and stars in an online film about his experiences in the social experiment called Don’t Get Me Wrong, the results were more shocking. Between the two phases of the experiment interest fell in Erik by 81% for dating websites and 76% for flatshare websites.
I was surprised by the social experiment results. The amount of people who didn’t respond after my mental health problem was disclosed was very high, and I found this sad and disappointing. Most people just didn’t seem to understand and were ready to turn their backs rather than ask questions to try and gain an insight into the problem.
Although I did receive some very negative responses, some were actually quite positive. These were mainly from people who had a friend or family member with a mental health problem, which seems to indicate that when a person knows someone with a mental illness they tend to be more understanding of the fact it can affect anyone and anyone can be of support.
I think this experiment provides a strong call for people to talk to and be open to people with mental health problems. This could be a potential partner or flatmate, or a work colleague or friend. We need to get to know people and see beyond the mental illness.
Relationship expert Tracey Cox said: The term 'mental illness' sounds off-putting in regards to potential partners, but the reality is one in four of us will experience some sort of mental illness like depression or anxiety. We need to move beyond the label and start realising that it's something that can affect us all.
Interestingly, according to the survey most people would react positively if their partner revealed their mental health problem a few months into the relationship. One-quarter of people (27%) said their main reaction would be to want to find out more, another 18% said they would want to support them in any way they could, and 15% said they would feel happy their partner was able to tell them about their mental illness.
Time to Change Director Sue Baker said:
We know through research and anecdotal evidence that stigma and discrimination stops people engaging in everyday activities – going shopping, visiting the local pub, taking a holiday, talking openly with family about problems – the list is endless. In fact, one in three people with a mental health problem find stigma and discrimination a barrier to making new friendships and forming relationships.
Our social experiment explores the reality of stigma and discrimination in everyday areas of life that many of us can take for granted. I commend Erik and the other experiment participants for taking part. Our ambition for this part of the campaign will help to demonstrate that it’s the assumptions we make about mental health that hurt the most.
To watch Erik’s story via a short film, Don’t Get Me Wrong, and make your pledge to help end mental health prejudice today, please visit www.time-to-change.org.uk
For further information, comment and national and local case studies, call Olivia Deskoski, PR Manager on 020 7840 3137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Out of office hours call 07828 437015
- 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. The leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink are running the programme, funded with £16m from the Big Lottery Fund and £4m from Comic Relief, and evaluated by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London. Pledge to help end mental health prejudice at we-to-change.org.uk
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2233 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18 – 20 August 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all British adults (aged 18+).
- The Time to Change social experiment was conducted over July and August 2010 with seven participants. Ads were placed on leading dating and flatshare websites, firstly without disclosure of a mental health problem then with an added line about their mental illness. All findings are based on differences between Phase One and Phase Two of the social experiment.
- The Big Lottery Fund’s support for Time to Change comes from its £165m Well-being programme. The Big Lottery Fund has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006. Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888 / Out of hours: 07867 500 572 Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030 / Textphone: 08456 021 659
- Comic Relief is committed to supporting people living with mental health problems. The projects Comic Relief funds ensure people with mental health problems get their voices heard in the decisions that affect their lives and to get the help they need to recover. Comic Relief also helps people to promote their rights and reduce the stigma and discrimination they face so that they feel more included in society. The £4 million grant to Time to Change is part of Comic Relief's long standing commitment to this issue. For more information go to www.comicrelief.com
Social experiment participants available for interview
Erik Baurdoux, 30, London:
I don’t think a mental health problem should put people off starting a relationship. Relationships are hard work. Having a partner with a mental health problem can be difficult to come to terms with, but like with any issue you need a dialogue and to be open and honest.
Vikkie Judd, 26, London:
The social experiment has proven that stigma exists and we all need to acknowledge this. I want people to get to know people more and not jump to conclusions.
Chris Lloyd, 43, Manchester:
I have recently been getting back in touch with people who I lost contact with during my breakdown. Naturally friends asked what had been wrong. I took a deep breath and told them the truth, and no-one responded - nothing.
Danielle Coster, 26, Gloucestershire:
I think it just shows that people are making split second decisions. They are taking the phrase ‘mental illness’ and adding their own preconceived idea.
Nina Shivji, 29, Sheffield:
My family are not your stereotypical Asian family, but like many others they don’t believe mental health problems exist. I grew up being told to get on with things and so for years after I left home I felt ashamed and guilty for experiencing depression.
Please note: more London-based regional case studies are available to talk about their experiences of mental health prejudice.