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Published: 03 December 2014

Ruby Wax supports University's pledge to end mental health discrimination

At an event at the University of Surrey, special guest, comedienne and mental health campaigner, Ruby Wax, recently pledged her support to a nationwide campaign to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.

Surrey has become the latest institution to commit to ending the stigma around mental illness by signing a pledge with Time to Change, which is a programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.  The signing ceremony took place at the latest in the series of the University's 'Jim Meets' lectures with Ruby Wax.  During the evening, Ruby discussed her struggles with depression, her curiosity to explore how the brain works and how techniques such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can help soothe the mind and reduce stress.

"There is still a huge stigma attached to mental illness in this country," said Ruby Wax.  "Being depressed has become the modern-day witch trials. People can't see it and they don't understand it.  If we don't talk about this stuff and learn to deal with it, it won't be one in four people experiencing a mental health problem, it'll be four in four!"

Rotimi Akinsete, Director of Wellbeing at the University of Surrey, said: "We know stigma is a powerful force in preventing people with mental health difficulties from gaining access to appropriate support.  Indeed, most students do not disclose their mental health problems to staff, primarily due to fear of discrimination during their studies and in professional employment.  By signing the pledge with Times to Change, we can make positive steps to raise awareness of issues and highlight the support that is available.

"At Surrey, we are committed to providing full support to staff and students. The Centre for Wellbeing offers a range of services including counselling, advice and workshops to assist with any wellbeing concerns.  We also work closely with the Students' Union and the Surrey Sports Park to help raise awareness and encourage a positive work, study and life balance."

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: "It is fantastic that more and more organisations are showing their support in tackling the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems. Employers and their staff can all play a part in helping to stamp out stigma and companies like the University of Surrey are taking a lead.

"Many leading companies have found that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing of their workforce not only has benefits for their staff but also benefits their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in four people experiencing mental illness it's time for businesses to work on their approach and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces."

Editors' Notes

About Time to Change

Time to Change is England's biggest anti-stigma programme led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief. Set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems, Time to Change promotes better understanding to combat discrimination towards people who experience mental health problems.

The University of Surrey joins the wide movement of organisations that have signed up to the Time to Change pledge, including the FA, the Premier League, BT, E.ON, British Gas, Ernst & Young, Transport for London, Citizen's Advice, Accenture, Shell, Pepsico, The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England, Channel 4, Lloyds, and many NHS trusts, universities, and local authorities.