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Mental Health: Survey results

Updated Friday, 14th January 2011

Following the broadcast in May 2010 of two television programmes on mental health, ‘Sectioned’ and ‘Mental: A History of the Madhouse’, which were coproduced by the BBC and The Open University, viewers were invited  to take part in an online survey on choices in mental health care. From May 17th to November 30th 2010 the survey was accessed by 386 individuals. Here are the results

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The nature of respondents

The initial survey questions covered the demographic characteristics of the respondents.

Age: (377 responses) The majority (89.7%) were aged 22-64 years, with 42.7% of respondents being in the in 36-49 age group.

Gender: (381 responses) There was a large disparity here with males forming 20.5% of respondents and females 79.5%.

Ethnicity: (356 responses) The majority of respondents (95.7%) identified themselves as ‘white’.

Country: (384 responses) The majority of respondents were living in England at the time of the survey.

Stated interests of respondents: (375 responses) The survey attracted a lot of responses from service users and ex-service users, together these two groups formed 69.9% of survey respondents.

Combination of stated interests: some respondents indicated more than one role or interest in relation to mental health.

  • 25 respondents (6.7%) were informal carers to a relative or friend as well as being a current or ex- service user    
  • 63 respondents (16.8%) were both health and social care workers/professionals and current or ex- service users
  • 46 respondents (12.3%) with an academic interest in mental health were current or ex- service users

Looked at another way:

  • 24.0% of current and ex- service user respondents were working in health and social care services
  • 48.8% of health and social care worker/professional respondents were current or ex- service users
  • 50.0% of respondents with an academic interest in mental health identified themselves as current or ex- service users

Responses to survey questions about using mental health services

First approached for help: (291 responses) 89% of respondents first approached their General Practitioner for help with their mental health issues; a typical response being ‘who else?’.

Sources of help used: (376 respondents)

General Practitioner 312
Informal: friends, family, colleagues, neighbours etc 268
Psychiatrist 212
NHS counsellor/psychotherapist 201
Community mental health team 178
Hospital out-patient services 147
Private counsellor/psychotherapist 143
Clinical psychologist 129
Community mental health nurse 126
Cognitive Behavioural Therapist 124
Nurse at GP practice/health centre 118
Hospital in-patient ward 108
Self-help group 90
Voluntary sector counsellor 86
Social worker 75
Occupational Therapist 75
Day centre 58
Children and Adolescent mental health team 56
Religious/faith-based organisations 37
Supported employment/work rehabilitation 35
Alcohol/Drug use service 31
Eating disorders service 28
Self-harm service 26
Early Intervention for Psychosis team 24
Assertive outreach team 23
Befriending service 20

Informal Support

Although the majority of respondents received support from informal sources such as friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, or other service users, a significant number (21.5%) of the 362 respondents to this question said they had not received such  support. 264 respondent gave details of the types of informal support received. The largest category of responses described emotional support with the five most often quoted aspects being:

  • Talking        
  • Listening        
  • Being there / giving time    
  • Keeping in touch            
  • Sharing experience

Respondents also mention the value of practical support including:

  • Providing food
  • Childcare
  • Workplace support
  • Being accompanied to appointments
  • Financial assistance


77.4% of 336 respondents said they had limited or no choice of options when seeking help for mental distress.

Evaluation of services used

Respondents made comments in response to three question:

  • What was most helpful? (290 responses)
  • What else might have helped? (253 responses)
  • What could have been better? (243 responses)

There were a wide range of opinions expressed by respondents ranging from the positive to the negative. There is a lot of analysis to be carried out on these responses, but an initial reading of them indicates that a sense of being listened to and being able to access talking therapies were highly valued.

Evaluation of how services have changed over the last five years

236 respondents answered ths question, whereas 150 skipped it.

Result graphics from the Mental Health survey Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

It is striking that 69.7% of respondents felt that their needs had changed whereas only 35.1% felt that the support available is now better suited to their needs.

108 respondents provided additional comments on this question and many commented on the difficulty of fitting the services available to their particular range of needs.

Do you think current services...

Result graphics from the Mental Health survey Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

Although it is positive that 68.1% of the 301 respondents felt that health and social care services supported them, this does leave the other 31.9% who did not feel this way. Similarly the 17.9% who felt that services punished them in some way is a cause for concern.

109 respondents provided additional comments on this question, these need detailed analysis, but help to explain ambiguous feeling about services which in some cases were experienced as both punishing and protective.

Advice for people experiencing a mental health crisis

What message would you send to someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis?

309 respondents posted a message in response to this question, some short and others quite detailed. The majority were positive about the benefits of seeking professional help although sometimes this was qualified by concerns about the abilities of services to meet the needs and expectations of service users. A smaller number advised against going down the psychiatric route for treatment. Given the high proportion of current and former service users who contributed to this survey these comments provide a valuable resource of helpful advice from people with direct experiences of dealing with mental health crises. More work will be done to make these available to service users and providers.





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