This blog post was first published on 19/10/16 and updated on 01/03/17 to reflect that the GCSE (9-1) specification is accredited.
As you may have seen in the news recently there has been an increase in raising awareness about mental health issues, but why, you may ask, is this occurring?
At the moment there are currently several myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic of mental health. This mostly due to the fact that the general population do not understand mental health or have been given inaccurate information. This is one of the reasons why the news agencies and other media organisations, such as Time to Change are raising awareness in order to address the stigma, misconceptions and discrimination surrounding mental health.
Research from Time to Change found that a common misconception is that mental health problems are rare. However, 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem. Further research from the Mental Health Organisation found that approximately 450 million people worldwide have been affected by a mental health problem at some point during their lives, with 1 in 12 of the UK population affected by depression. Also, statistics have shown that 1 in 10 children experience a mental health issue. These statistics summarise that mental health issues are not at all rare and the research goes on to say that the majority of individuals with a mental health problem will also experience some form of stigma or discrimination.
Many incidences of stigma and discrimination that people face are due to myths and misconceptions. The majority are often reinforced by the media, the Mental Health Organisation found that the most common misconception is that individuals living with mental health are portrayed as dangerous, evil or unable to function normally in society; when in reality they are more than capable of living normal lives and the only danger they pose is to themselves and not those around them.
The majority of the public's knowledge surrounding mental health is determined by the quality of the information published in the media. A piece of research titled The Media’s Impact on Public Perceptions of Mental Illness found that the media’s use of inaccurate and sensationalised portrayals tends to perpetuate myths, stereotypes and promote incorrect assumptions.
Surprisingly yes they do. A poll conducted by the BBC found that the public trusted 61% of the media’s content over the information provided by the government. However, despite the negatives it should be acknowledged that the media does not always get it completely wrong. The media has also helped to raise awareness of mental health in popular soaps and dramas, encouraging people to seek help and support signposting them to the appropriate agencies. Research carried out by Time to Change concluded that a quarter of the people they asked said:
...that seeing a character with similar issues encouraged them to seek professional help."
One way to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination is by making the public more aware through conversations, campaigns and ongoing education. The same research from the Mental Health Organisation recognised that the most effective way to challenge the stigma and discrimination is through direct contact with the people experiencing mental health issues. Providing the public with the real facts about mental health helps to combat stigma and discrimination and effectively raises awareness.
Sadly, the topic of mental health can seem like a taboo subject of conversation with individuals in fear of discrimination reluctant to discuss their own personal experiences. A survey carried out by the NHS Information Centre (2011) concluded that 43% of individuals felt uncomfortable talking to their employer about their mental health, in comparison to 70% who felt comfortable talking to their friends and/or family.
Organisations such as ‘Time to Change’ aim to raise awareness of mental health and change the way people think and act. This organisation encourages people with a mental health issue to take action and challenge stigma and discrimination within their own communities, in the workplace, schools and online. As well as aiming to improve attitudes and behaviour towards people living with mental health.
The reformed GCE and GCSE specifications lends from clinical psychology studies and the issues surrounding mental health. Both specifications provide students with the background, key research and apply this research to novel situations. Enriching learners with knowledge of mental health and overcoming the myths.
GCSE Psychology (9-1) (from 2017) Specification (Accredited)
The new reformed GCSE (9-1) specification (accredited Jan ’17) has been developed in partnership with Time to Change. The specification has a focus on mental health, which aims to encourage greater awareness in young people and therefore reducing instances of stigma and discrimination.
During the development of the new reformed GCSE, Time to Change had this to say:
Time to Change is pleased to be working with OCR to update their GCSE (9–1) Psychology qualification... We hope this GCSE (9–1) Psychology qualification will inspire this generation to know more about mental health and find out what they can do to support their own mental health and that of their peers and help to create a future free from stigma and discrimination."
Throughout the topic of ‘Psychological problems’ learners will be given an introduction to mental health, learning about the significance of mental health over time, the effects stigma and discrimination can have on individuals before and after diagnosis and how mental health can have an impact on the wider society as a whole.
Reformed AS/A Level GCE Psychology (from 2015) Specification
Moving from GCSE, the reformed GCE has a compulsory topic on the ‘Issues in Mental Health’. For this topic students are shown how mental health is diagnostically categorised and are shown the difference between three types of disorders (psychotic, affective and anxiety disorder). Also, students are taught the ‘stickiness of labels’ through the Rosenhan study and the ethical implications this can pose onto the individual with a mental health problem.
As you can see, through the study of Psychology, students will be able to learn some of the facts and the research behind mental health and will hopefully encourage young people to understand the basis of myths and misconceptions and help others around them understand the true nature of mental health.
If you wish to find out more and how you can help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health then please contact Time to Change.
Alternatively you can submit your comments below and if you have any questions regarding the OCR specifications then you can get in touch with us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @OCR_Psychology.
Leeann Greer - Assistant Subject Specialist - Psychology
Leeann has recently joined OCR as the Assistant Subject Specialist for Psychology. Leeann completed her degree in Psychology with Forensic Psychology, and has a keen interest in offender profiling and the affect rehabilitation has on recidivism. In her spare time Leeann is a self–confessed ‘binge’ watcher of American TV shows and enjoys days out in London.