hospitalThe stigma of mental health issues remains a key factor in people not accessing the care they need, according to new research.

The study by King’s College London, found that the effect was even stronger on young people and those in health professions by bringing together data from 144 studies, including more than 90,000 participants worldwide. It looked at the effect of stigma on how individuals with mental health problems accessed and engaged with formal services, including GPs, specialist mental health services and talking therapies.

Dr Sarah Clement, from the university's Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) and lead author of the paper, added: “Our study clearly demonstrates that mental health stigma plays an important role in preventing people from accessing treatment. We found that the fear of disclosing a mental health condition was a particularly common barrier. Supporting people to talk about their mental health problems, for example through anti-stigma campaigns, may mean they are more likely to seek help.”

Further reading: One in 10 experience daily mental health stigma, survey finds

The main types of stigma preventing people from accessing care were ‘treatment stigma’ – the stigma associated with using mental health services or receiving mental health treatment – and ‘internalised stigma’, which includes shame and embarrassment. Other important barriers preventing people seeking help were fear of disclosing a mental health condition, concerns about confidentiality, wanting to handle the problem on one’s own, and not believing they needed help.

Sue Baker, director of anti-stigma campaign Time to Change said: "With one in ten children experiencing mental health problems, the impact of stigma is robbing too many of their hopes for the future.

"They are left too afraid to turn to their families, friends and teachers, or to get support. However we know, from our existing campaign, that by working together we can improve attitudes. With young people as the driving force behind our new campaign, we will be able to bring these issues out from the dark ages.”

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