Friday 10 June 2011

Quibbles and Nitpicking

Take a look at the new Attitudes to Mental Illness - 2011 Survey Report. This makes interesting reading and, although the authors emphasise some positive changes, the change since 1994 is pretty slight and there are evidently a number of areas where there has been no positive change.

Also, am I being picky or does the report make some rather simplistic assumptions about what is a good or bad attitude to mental illness? For example, it is assumed that it is "good" to agree with the statement "Mental illness is an illness like any other". Of course we know what they are driving at but actually many reasonable people would not agree, believing that physical illnesses as a group share obvious characteristics not shared by mental illness. So how many people not agreeing are perfectly reasonable people without prejudice and not ignorant about the facts about mental illness?

And another one: it is assumed that you are out of touch, ignorant, or prejudiced if you don't agree with the statement "Mental hospitals are an outdated means of treating people with mental illness". Again you know what they are trying to get at but this is sloppily expressed because the most progressive approach to treatment would acknowledge the role of the right sort of mental hospital in the treament of some patients some of the time.

Looking at the statistics suggests to me that younger people may have refused to accept the "politically correct" but actually sloppy and simplistic statements not through prejudice but because they analysed the statements rather carefully. Anyway here are the suspect stats...

Notwithstanding my quibbles and nitpicking this is an important report and gives valuable insights into how we might influence attitudes and behaviour not through preachy condemnation but through information and, above all, promoting contact and discussion between the public and people affected by mental illness.