Why the recent Time to Change campaign is flawed

Time to Change is the leading campaigner in the UK in the fight against stigma and discrimination for those with mental health problems.  It is headed by MIND and Rethink and overseen by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.  In spite of this it has recently made a huge error in judgement in the overall campaign.

This campaign raises the question of how appropriate it is to give this sort of information away in this manner.  In any relationship you have to assess how and where it is going before making a decision to divulge details such as this.  For example, you would not put on a dating site “Woman 35 seeking life partner, slept with 300 men & as a result have herpes”.  I have met many people in my life and I’m not afraid of being upfront with them about having Bipolar Disorder but I assess when and where in the relationship, be it personal, working etc, it’s reasonable to disclose this.  Invariably I’ve found that the best response is when people have had a little time to get to know me and by then I’ve become a person in their eyes as opposed to a problem with a person attached to it.  One of my friends has told me, totally without malice, that had he known of the problems that my health would bring he probably would have run away when we first met but, having hung around and having got to know and love me, he has realised that yes, he would have missed out on the problems but he would have also missed out on someone clever, funny and fantastic to be with.

I put a question on the Time to Change wall on Facebook asking if I was the only one who found the campaign flawed.  No one responded and Time to Change obviously found it insignificant enough to ignore so it seems that Time to Change find themselves above politeness and consideration also.

I appreciate that Time to Change have set out to prove that discrimination is rife but at what cost?  Anyone who has seen the video of Erik will see how upset and stressed he got.  And a mental health organization put him through that to prove something we already know?

Recently a series of adverts have been launch by Time to Change seemingly aimed at proving that people are prejudiced about dating people with mental health problems or sharing a living space with them.  I believe that the campaign is flawed and that it will not help people with mental health problems to embrace life but instead will help them come to a decision that the fight against stigma and discrimination is pointless if they are likely to be rejected by individuals.

The advertising campaign centred on a man in his early 30s and the placed profiles on the leading internet dating agency sites and ads on sites advertising a house share.  In the first round of ads he didn’t mention he had a mental health problem and got a positive response.  On the second round of ads he added that he had a “mental health problem” adding that he took medication.  For this round of ads he got fewer replies.

The presumption has been made that people were put off sharing a house or dating this man because he had a mental health problem.  What doesn’t seem to have been considered is that there is a dearth of information about what diagnosis he has, how it affects existing relationships and what it would mean for any new person in his life.  The presumption is also made that the amount of replies to the second ad is because mental health is mentioned.  The second ad of this kind always elicits fewer replies.  On dating sites & ads about house shares you only look once.  You look, decide whether it’s right for you or not and don’t look again.  There are far fewer of these ads than you imagine to be as you narrow details down by filter and you do get the same people/houses/flats coming up time and time again.  Try it and see how many times John, 44, divorced comes up for you.

It’s not possible to accurately assess how many people looked at each ad or what percentage of those people responded so any claims that Time to Change make about responses to the ads and specific figures are actually invalid.

The campaign doesn’t prove that there a high levels of discrimination but what it does do is give the impression Time to Change thinks that people with mental health problems are unloveable and don’t deserve to live with others and have set out to prove that.  There are many other ways of proving discrimination without kicking people in the head after they’ve been knocked down.

It feels to me that the mental health charities lead when they should be following.  Tails should not wag dogs.

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