The number of mental health-related 999 calls to emergency services has increased in recent years. However, emergency services staff have an unfavourable reputation when it comes to supporting people experiencing mental health problems.
To assess the levels of explicit and implicit mental health stigma among accident and emergency, ambulance and police staff, and draw comparisons with the general population. Additional analyses sought to identify which variables predict mental health stigma among emergency services staff.
A cross-sectional survey of 1837 participants, comprising four independent groups (accident and emergency, ambulance and police staff, and the general population).
Levels of mental health stigma across all four groups were lower than those reported in recent surveys of the general population by the ‘Time to Change’ campaign. Within this study, explicit levels of mental health stigma were lower among the general population compared with emergency services staff. There was no difference between emergency service professions, nor were there any between-group differences in terms of implicit mental health stigma. The only consistent predictors of mental health stigma were attitudes and future behavioural intentions, whereby increased stigma was predicted by increased fear, reduced sympathy and greater intended discrimination.
Our findings suggest that levels of mental health stigma have improved over time, but there is room for improvement in emergency services staff. Interventions to improve mental health stigma may be most effective if, in line with the cognitive–behavioural model of stigma, they target attitudes and behavioural intentions.