TWO thirds of people in Ayrshire and Arran (61 per cent) who have struggled with their mental health have been stigmatised or discriminated against because of it.

The new study, released last Thursday found that people in Ayrshire and Arran are most likely to experience stigma and discrimination from those closest to them, from friends, family, and work colleagues.

However there are signs of improvements, with 77 per cent of respondents saying they think public perceptions of mental health problems have improved over the past 10 years.

The poll of over 2,000 people was carried out by Censuswide for See Me, the programme to end mental health discrimination. It is the most extensive study into mental health stigma in Scotland for over five years, with 164 people polled in Ayrshire and Arran.

See Me have been joined by TV presenter Gail Porter, who recently released a documentary about her mental health journey.

She said: “While I was enjoying a successful career on television, I was experiencing serious mental health illness, but at the time there was still a stigma around the subject so I had to smile and carry on as normal. Hiding it like this just made things worse.

“In those days, the media often labelled people ‘mad’ or similar derogatory terms, there was a stigma and discrimination around mental health that could quickly destroy your career.

“These days, it’s great that mental health is something that is talked about more openly and positively and the stigma has been reduced significantly but I think there’s a long way to go.”

The nationwide poll also found that 27 per cent of respondents would not want a person who has a mental health problem to take care of their child and one in 10 (11 per cent) would not be willing to have a relationship with someone with a mental health problem.

However 85 per cent believe it is possible to have a mental health problem and live a meaningful life.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said: “It is encouraging that 79 per cent people who were surveyed think that public perceptions of mental health problems have improved in the last 10 years – and that over half of respondents would feel confident to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination, especially when they have been the recipient of such stigma themselves.

“See Me’s survey also shows some negative findings about fears around mental ill-health. These findings are sobering and they reaffirm that, despite strong progress in improving public perceptions, there is still much to be done.”