Talking about the stigma around mental health today, Nick Clegg brought up an interesting point. Launching a new initiative to cut suicide to zero in the UK, he mentioned the story of a man he met last week: “Just last week, I met a man who told me that when he was in hospital for open-heart surgery, he was inundated with visits from family and friends. But, when he was hospitalised due to a mental illness for 5 months, he received just 3 visitors.”
It’s just one anecdote, but it’s an interesting way of putting numbers on a stigma that is very real, but can be hard to pin down. Unfortunately the NHS’s data body the HSCIC doesn’t collect information on hospital visitors, and neither did the hospital trusts we contacted, so we only have this single, though striking example. Here’s one of the other ways of measuring the stigma around mental health problems: Would you tell your employer?40% of adults wouldn’t tell their bosses if they had a mental health condition.
Can you imagine not telling your boss if you were diagnosed with diabetes or needed time off because you broke your leg? Well 3 out of 5 people diagnosed with mental health conditions don’t tell their boss about their diagnosis. Again it’s because of stigma – and that can make life even worse than the disease by itself.
The article first appeared Mirror, 19 January 2015.