Background: Understanding trends and effective mechanisms that are likely to reduce public stigma and discrimination towards people with mental illness is important. We aimed to assess changes in public stigma in England after the introduction of the Time to Change anti-stigma campaign.
Methods: We used data from the 2003 and 2007-13 national Attitudes to Mental Illness surveys to investigate 10-year trends in public attitudes across England before and during the Time to Change anti-stigma campaign. We present annual mean scores for attitude items related to prejudice and exclusion, and tolerance and support for community care. We also present an extrapolated linear trend line for the years 2009-13 and estimate population attitude scores without the campaign. We present unadjusted and adjusted linear regression models. In addition, we used multivariable linear regression models fitted to data aggregated by region to investigate whether a dose-effect response exists between campaign awareness and regional outcomes related to knowledge, attitudes, and intended behaviour.
Findings: About 1700 respondents were surveyed each year. Significant increases in positive attitudes related to prejudice and exclusion occurred after the Time to Change campaign. In the multivariable analysis, we noted a significant increase in positive attitudes in relation to prejudice and exclusion after the launch of Time to Change (reverse-coded Z score 0·02, 95% CI 0·01 to 0·05; p=0·01), but not for tolerance and support for community care (Z score 0·01, -0·01 to 0·03; p=0·27). We also found evidence for a dose-effect relation between campaign awareness and regional improvement in knowledge (p=0·004) and attitudes (tolerance and support p<0·0001; prejudice and exclusion p=0·001), but not intended behaviour (p=0·20).
Interpretation: The positive effects of Time to Change seem to be significant and moderate. Although attitudes are probably more at risk of deterioration during times of economic hardship, anti-stigma programmes might still play an active part in long-term reduction of stigma and discrimination, especially in relation to prejudice and exclusion of people with mental health problems.
Funding: UK Department of Health, Comic Relief, Big Lottery.
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