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  • Writer's pictureSarah

About time?

"For, 1 in 4 of us, every day is a fight."


Chronology of legislative changes

It is interesting the use of language and how this affects our understanding, preconceptions and behaviour.

In the 1800's individuals who had a mental health condition were said to be lunatics, idiots and imbeciles and were sent to the "madhouse". This language is very suggestive and stigmatises individuals.

In 1913 the Mental Deficiency Act was introduced to segregate "mental defectives" into an order based on vulnerability. The word "defectives" almost desensitises you from being consciously aware, that these words are being used to describe individuals with a mental health condition. The language used during this time reflects the attitudes held by the wider society.

In 1949 Derek Richter established the Mental Health Research Fund to address the imbalance in physical and mental health funding. His interests lay in how your experiences and the environment you live in, can shape your mental health. This was the beginning of a change to the mindset and approach to mental health conditions, but there was still a long way to go.

In 1959 the Mental Health Act defined a mental disorder as a "mental illness; arrest or incomplete development of mind; psychopathic disorder; and any other disorder or disability of mind". However, there was still stigma and fear associated with mental health, because individuals did not understand or have enough information to eradicate this stigma.

In 1973 the Mental Health Foundation was founded and in 1989 Sir David Plaistow, said that the achievement of the Mental Health Foundation was that:

"for millions of ordinary people the fear, stigma and suffering

associated with mental illness is now a thing of the past"

It had taken an enormous amount of time to remove the stigma, but had it really become a thing of the past?

In 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act was introduced, which provided rights to disabled people to prevent discrimination on the grounds of disability and these rights were furthered in 2010 with the introduction of the Equality Act, which provides protection against discrimination in the workplace and in the wider society.

But the use of discrimination in the language associated with mental health conditions, has this created a stigma in its own right. Does the word disability evoke negative emotions and responses within you? Does it influence your preconceptions and behaviours towards individuals who are defined as being disabled? Are you unconsciously biased towards these individuals?

We need to continue to change the language centred around mental health.

Mental health is something we all have and good mental health creates a sense of purpose and direction, gives us energy to do the things we want to do and provides us with the ability to deal with the challenges that happen along the way. However, mental health problems impact upon our daily lives and can become complex, and require support and treatment for life.

Where you can see there has been a change in behaviour, an employee is just not their self, their performance has decreased and they are not focused, talk to them. Use language that tells them they are valued, appreciated, important and that they matter. Create a safe environment where they feel they can share their feelings and there is no need to feel afraid or ashamed. Support employees to build resilience and direct them to get help from appropriately trained organisations.


Chronology of legislation
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Indicators of poor mental health Factsheet
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Mental Health Wellbeing Questionnaire PDF
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