Among people with depression, 79 per cent report that they’ve experienced some form of discrimination, according to an international study.
Although mental health is the biggest cause of disability in the Western world, the stigma attached to it is often worse than the illness itself, say experts.
Writing in The Lancet, British researchers looked at nearly 1,100 people treated for depression in 35 countries.
They found that 34 per cent of the patients said they had been avoided or shunned by other people because of their mental health problems. 37 per cent said that anticipated discrimination had stopped them initiating a close personal relationship, and 25 per cent said they had not applied for work at some point because they expected to face discrimination.
The study also found that 71 per cent of patients said they wanted to conceal their depression from other people, a worrying statistic which suggests that people with depression may not seek treatment because of their fears of discrimination.
Whilst drugs and psychotherapy can help 60- 80 per cent of people with depression, only 10 per cent receive treatment that is effective, at the right dose for long enough with the right therapy.
Professor Graham Thornicroft, head of health service and population research at the Institute of Psychiatry said:
"We have a major problem here. Non-disclosure is an extra barrier – it means people don't seek treatment and don't get help."
"Our findings show discrimination is widespread and almost certainly acts as a barrier to an active social life and having a fair chance to get and keep a job," he said.
Data from the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care show that the number of anti-depressant prescriptions being issued in England has risen by almost 10 per cent in just a year.
If you want to receive private treatment for mental health problems, look for a medical insurance policy with full psychiatric cover.
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