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Rethink's mission statement is "Working together to help everyone affected by severe mental illness recover a better quality of life Take control and find a better way of living life to the full."
Rethink were founded over 30 years ago to give a voice to people affected by severe mental illness and today, with over 8,300 members, they remain determined that this voice will continue to be heard. Rethink help over 48,000 people every year through their services, support groups and by providing information on mental health problems. There website receives almost 300,000 visitors every year.
Their aim is to make a practical and positive difference by providing hope and empowerment through effective services, information and support to all those who need it. People who use their services and their carers are at the heart of their vision and we believe that all those who experience severe mental illness are entitled to be treated with respect and as equal citizens. Rethink carry out research which informs both their own and national mental health policy and Rethink actively campaign for change through greater awareness and understanding. Rethink are dedicated to creating a world where prejudice and discrimination are eliminated.
During January 15th till February 12th 2007 Rethink is running an anti-stigma campaign in Northern Ireland. Including it's first tv advert: http://www.rethink.org/get_involved/antistigma_and_discrimination_ni/index.html
Amongst its recent campaigns Rethink has urged the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke to look at the mental health risks of cannabis, rather than "fiddle with its legal status". Cannabis was downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004, making most cases of possession non-arrestable. However, Rethink wants government support for new research into the relationship between severe mental illness and cannabis. They have publicly stated, in response to George Michael's advocacy of the drug, that cannabis is the drug "most likely to cause mental illness". The evidence is clear five or six international studies have found that cannabis use doubles or triples the chances of developing psychosis if you smoke when you’re under 18. The more you use, the greater the risk – in two studies, those who had used cannabis more than 50 times had 6 times the usual risk of developing schizophrenia. Find out more about Rethink's cannabis campaign: http://www.rethink.org/how_we_can_help/campaigning_for_change/cannabis_and_mental_illness/index.html
Rethink was criticised and congratulated for a statue it commissioned of Sir Winston Churchill in a straitjacket and unveiled in The Forum building in Norwich on 11 March 2006. This was part of Rethink's first anti-stigma regional campaign. See: http://www.rethink.org/get_involved/campaign_with_us/antidiscrimination/norwich_campaign/index.html
The statue was designed to highlight the stigma of mental health problems but was accused by figures like Sir Patrick Cormack of being an insult to both the former prime minister and to those with mental health problems.. However the statue was intended to show how people in today's society are stigmatised by mental illness. Churchill had symptoms of depression/bipolar disorder or manic depression in his lifetime. People with those illnesses were often put in straight jackets in the past. The statue was intended as a celebration of the life of a man who triumphed over mental health problems and Rethink's campaign to lift the stigma and discrimination faced by hundreds of thousands of people with severe mental illness continues. Rethink said: "People who experience severe mental health problems die, on average, 10 years sooner than members of the general population, much of that due to discrimination that prevents people getting the physical health care they need.
People are being denied jobs because of the prejudice of employers. Today there are more people claiming Incapacity Benefit for mental health problems than there are people claiming job seekers allowance for unemployment. This is despite people with mental health problems having the highest want to work rate of any disabled group.
People are hiding the early symptoms of mental illness because of the fear surrounding mental illness, denying themselves the help and support they need to recover their lives."
Find out more about the Churchill statue: http://www.rethink.org/get_involved/campaign_with_us/antidiscrimination/norwich_campaign/churchill_statue.html
The criticism produced an interesting debate on stigma and the research into attitudes as a result of the Norwich anti-stigma campaign found that stigma against those with severe mental illness decreased after the campaign in the area. You can download the evaluation report here: http://www.rethink.org/get_involved/campaign_with_us/antidiscrimination/norwich_campaign/index.html
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