Campaign victory for mental health

MARK NICHOLLS A national charity is today set to reveal that a controversial campaign held in Norwich earlier this year has led to a significant change in public attitudes towards mental health.

MARK NICHOLLS

A national charity is today set to reveal that a controversial campaign held in Norwich earlier this year has led to a significant change in public attitudes towards mental health.

Rethink ran the campaign, which aimed to cut down stigma and prejudice around mental health issues, in March but provoked national reaction after using a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in a straitjacket to force its message into the public domain.

Following the success of the pilot campaign in Norwich, the charity is now planning to roll out the initiative across Northern Ireland next year and used the advances made in public attitudes in Norwich as the basis for a bid for funding to extend the campaign across the whole of the UK.

Rethink director of public affairs Paul Corry said: “We are absolutely delighted with the way the campaign went - it exceeded our expectations and we saw a very positive shift in people's awareness and attitudes. We would also like to thank the people of Norwich for taking part in the campaign.”

He said Rethink was pleased there was some public backing for the use of the Churchill statue on the grounds that the charity says the wartime prime minister coped with periods of manic depression throughout his life.

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Mr Corry said the Churchill statue had been “retired” but the charity had not ruled out using equally visual and controversial images to continue to raise awareness and provoke reaction over mental health issues in future.

Rethink assessed the impact of the campaign through public attitude surveys and interviews with Rethink staff and volunteers.

Findings show an increase in mental health awareness.

After the campaign, double the number of people (30pc) said they had experienced mental health problems. A key area of success was the change in attitude to people with mental health problems.

Before the campaign, 40pc of people agreed strongly that they wouldn't want anyone to know if they had mental health problems. This decreased to 22pc.

The most controversial element of the campaign was the use of the Churchill statue, which was unveiled in the Forum in Norwich but taken down shortly afterwards because of protests.

Rethink said that feedback on Churchill statue was that 59pc thought it was okay that Rethink used the statue; 49pc thought it was wrong to take the statue down, and while 52pc of people thought charities using controversy to raise awareness was acceptable, 10pc felt it was not, and the rest were undecided.