The Mental Health Foundation and See Me said the research could help reduce prejudice and discrimination.
People across Scotland have been urged to take part in the country’s first ever survey on the stigma of mental health by two leading organisations.
The Scottish Mental Illness Stigma Survey is being undertaken by See Me, Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, and the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University.
The views and experiences people share will be used to make recommendations for the positive changes which can help create a Scotland that is free of mental illness prejudice and discrimination.
Both See Me and the Mental Health Foundation hope the new research will draw attention to the extent and impact of mental illness stigma across the country.
See Me volunteer, Tommy Kelly, first struggled with an eating disorder in 1997 following the death of his mother, but now uses his experiences to help others.
He said: “People don’t think it’s an illness, they think it is a choice.
“Self-stigma has affected me so much in my journey. People always look at me as being this anorexic person, when that's just part of my past; that doesn't define who I actually am.
“It held me back because, when I was trying to recover, I was always afraid of who I would be without the illness. Part of the recovery process is separating yourself from that illness – self-stigma makes that really hard.
“I feel we've come quite some way with stigma in general, especially during the pandemic, where a lot of people have understood that everybody struggles with mental health in some way or another.
“But, we've still got a long, long way to go – there's a difference with awareness and actual stigma, they're two totally different things. And sadly, people with long-term mental health issues are still looked upon as being lesser, especially in workplaces. They're still isolated from so much, because people just don't understand.”
Responses to the survey will be anonymous as the organisations seek to find out more about the real-life experiences of people, aged 18 and over, who are living with complex, and/or enduring mental illnesses.
While it is known that people living with these conditions experience discrimination, the research will explore how and where people face stigma, self-stigma, the impact this has, and most importantly, what needs to be done to make people’s lives better and prevent mental health conditions worsening or becoming unmanageable.
People have until Friday, February 18 to complete the survey, which is open to both people who have received a formal diagnosis, as well as those who have not been diagnosed formally but believe they may be experiencing one or more complex mental illnesses.
Jo Finlay, senior research manager at Mental Health Foundation, said: “Living with a mental illness can be extremely challenging and this is made even worse by being the target of stigma and discrimination.
“We encourage anyone who lives with, or has previously lived with, complex mental health conditions to take part in this research. With their support and contribution, we have the chance to produce a definitive picture of the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with mental illness, and the impact it can have.”