Severe mental illness is still misunderstood, survey shows
The public’s understanding of milder conditions has
improved, but the explosion in reporting of mental health stories
has not led to greater understanding or awareness of serious mental
This increases the risk that people with severe mental illness
won’t get the right care at the right time, our YouGov survey of
2,000 UK adults has revealed.
Do I need to be seen by a consultant?
The survey showed a yawning gap between the way the public
considered serious physical health conditions, and serious mental
% who said patient needs to see a consultant
But nearly a quarter were not sure about bipolar disorder, the
survey commissioned in September 2017 showed.
Alcohol addiction is a severe mental illness that is more deadly
than some cancers – yet fewer than half (44%) of the people polled
thought that someone with alcohol addiction should be referred to a
Eating Disorders are also serious mental illnesses, but only 59%
of people questioned thought that people with eating disorder
should be referred to a specialist.
Which type of doctor diagnoses bipolar disorder?
People’s understanding of the role of a psychiatrist was also
called into question.
Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness experienced by up to
1.3 million people in the UK.
Yet 42% of people did not know that a psychiatrist is
responsible for diagnosing this serious condition.
Why does this matter?
Despite the vital role of psychiatrists in treating mental
illness, recent figures published by the RCPsych show that in the
last 5 years, the number of psychiatry consultants has increased by
just 1.7%, while the number of consultants across the rest of the
NHS increased by 20.2%.
% increase in consultants in last five years
Our President, Professor Wendy Burn said: “The
work done to tackle stigma has been astounding and I could not be
prouder of the open culture we’re fostering about mental health.
But our poll shows that people do not fully appreciate how severe
mental illness can be.
“Psychiatrists are the only medically trained mental health
professionals. When it comes to treating severe mental illnesses
their input is irreplaceable. Only a psychiatrist can advise on the
best psychiatric medications for certain conditions; only a
psychiatrist can diagnose conditions such as psychosis.
“Early intervention is crucial to avoid patients reaching a
crisis - but this can only be done if the skilled workforce is
there to intervene.”
What can you do?
We’re calling on medical students and foundation doctors to
Choose Psychiatry to support those with severe mental
Find out more: our videos explain how psychiatrists make a
difference, and our content shows how to become a psychiatrist and
what to do next.
If it’s not you, maybe someone you know would be interested in a
career in psychiatry.
Let’s get more people to Choose