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Time to Change mental health campaign ends due to lack of funding

The mental health anti-stigma campaign ‘Time to Change’ will close in March 2021 as funding comes to an end.

The move comes at a time when mental health problems across the UK are soaring due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to try and combat its spread. However, the government has confirmed it is not in a position to fund the programme into the future.

The news comes as the children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield has said the government should be shocked into immediate action to tackle the growing epidemic of mental health problems in children and young people.

Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, said: “We know that in times of financial hardship, attitudes towards people with mental health problems tend to deteriorate, so there is a real threat that the improvements we’ve achieved will slide backwards. Right now, the true impact of the pandemic on our mental health is still unknown. What we do know is that there are difficult and uncertain times ahead and it has never been more important to look after ourselves and our friends and family: to talk, to listen and to check-in. That is why we will be working with individuals, organisations and communities right up until the last moment of our current funding and encouraging them to continue campaigning into the future.”

The campaign was launched 15 years ago when mental health problems were taboo. Headlines in national newspapers mocked people living with mental illness; many people were afraid to speak about their experiences to their closest friends and family; and the vast majority of people needing time off sick with a mental health problem would tell their employer they had a physical health problem instead.

Since then, 5.4 million people now have improved attitudes to people with mental health problems and people’s willingness to live, work and continue a relationship with someone experiencing a mental health problem has also increased by 11.6%.

Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, said: “Over 13 million adults in England, that’s 1 in 4 of us, will experience a mental health problem each year. Thanks to the Time to Change movement, we have seen an outstanding improvement in the way we all think and act about mental health. Many more of us are now comfortable disclosing a mental health problem without shame or fear of judgement. Ultimately this is the very first step in getting the help, support and treatment we need, and deserve.

“Time to Change has created a strong legacy where more people living with mental health problems are able to live their lives to the full without stigma damaging their relationships, education, career and ambitions. But despite phenomenal progress, our research shows that certain groups have not yet felt the benefit of improvements in public attitudes or behaviour change – including those living with less understood diagnoses such as schizophrenia or people from black and minority ethnic communities.

“We had hoped to continue to fight for equity and end discrimination, working with these communities and others whose lives continue to be severely impacted. Sadly, we will not be able to carry out this vital work but will spend the coming months making sure that our ambition is driven forward within the work of Mind and Rethink Mental Illness,” she added.

During the course of the campaign, the following results have been achieved:

• an improvement in public attitudes by 12.7%, equating to 5.4 million people

• an increase in public knowledge around mental health of 10%

• an improvement in intended behaviour towards people with mental health problems by 11.6% of the population

• a reduction in discrimination reported by people with lived experience

• and an improvement in the way the print media report mental health problems

In the following five months, Time to Change will continue to encourage people to be more open to mental health to help end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that many people feel when experiencing a mental health problem. The campaign will continue to deliver two peaks of national activity: the Ask Twice campaign in November and Time to Talk Day on Thursday 4 February 2021.

Time to Change and its partners, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, have delivered behaviour change at individual, organisational and community levels since 2006. The charities have always challenged, and will continue to challenge, stigma and discrimination in their own work. Over the next few months, Time to Change will turn its attention to embedding anti-stigma outcomes into the work of Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, while continuing to highlight the importance of tackling mental health stigma and discrimination to the government.

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