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About mental health

Taken from the Time to change website  

These key facts and statistics about mental health problems can help to challenge the myths that can contribute to the stigma that many people still face.

It’s so important that we challenge these myths so we can understand the real facts about what mental health problems are and how they can affect people.

  1. Mental health myths and facts
  2. Statistics about violence and mental illness
  3. Facts about portrayals of mental health in TV dramas and soaps
  4. Research
  5. Other sources of information

Mental health myths and facts

  • Myth: Mental health problems are very rare.
  • Fact: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • Myth: People with mental illness aren’t able to work.
  • Fact: We probably all work with someone experiencing a mental health problem.
  • Myth: Young people just go through ups and downs as part of puberty, it’s nothing.
  • Fact: 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.
  • Myth: People with mental health illnesses are usually violent and unpredictable.
  • Fact: People with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence. 
  • Myth: People with mental health problems don't experience discrimination
  • Fact: 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.
  • Myth: It’s easy for young people to talk to friends about their feelings.
  • Fact: Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.

Statistics about violence and mental illness

  • The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems. 
  • People with mental health problems are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others: 90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress
  • In 2009, the total population in England and Wales aged 16 or over was just over 43 million. It is estimated that about one in six of the adult population will have a significant mental health problem at any one time, (more than 7 million people). Given this number and the 50–70cases of homicide a year involving people known to have a mental health problem at the time of the murder, clearly the statistics data do not support the sensationalised media coverage about the danger that people with mental health problems present to the community.
  • Substance abuse appears to play a role: The prevalence of violence is higher among people who have symptoms of substance abuse (discharged psychiatric patients and non-patients). 

Read our guidelines for reporting stories featuring violence and mental health problems for more information.

Facts about portrayals of mental health in TV dramas and soaps

Research was carried out around portrayals of mental health in television drama & soaps, this found:

  • over a 3 month period 74 programmes contained storylines on mental health issues of these there were 33 instances of violence to others and 53 examples of harm to self 
  • almost half were sympathetic portrayals, but these often portrayed the characters as tragic victims 
  • the most commonly referred to condition was depression, which was mentioned 19 times, breakdown was mentioned 8 times and bi-polar 7 
  • 63% of references to mental health in TV soaps and drama were "pejorative, flippant or unsympathetic" terms included: "crackpot", "a sad little psycho", "basket case" , "where did you get her from?", "Care in the Community?" and "he was looney tunes"

Read our media guidelines for people working on mental health storylines in TV dramas and soaps.


For more in-depth information, you can read our research and reports into:

Take the mental health quiz 


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