Blog: Time to Change turns ten

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This month saw the 10th anniversary of the Time to Change campaign, which has helped improve the attitudes of 4.1 million people in England since it began. Comic Relief are proud to have worked with Time to Change since it started in 2007.

Gilly Green, Head of UK Grants for Comic Relief, reflects on the partnership and what Time to Change has achieved in the last decade:

It’s unusual for us to have been a funder throughout a 10 year journey. But on this occasion we have and we’re a proud one.

What attracted us? A big thick application landed on our desks in 2007 that was ambitious for change about the entire landscape of mental health stigma in England. It felt daunting, the challenge was huge and there were no guarantees. It was risky! Making change happen on such a large scale isn’t easy. Such change requires a cohesive, multi-layered, simultaneous top down and bottom up approach. But we knew that we couldn’t sit back. Through our funding we continued to pick up casualties of people who had been negatively impacted by stigma. We needed a more fundamental and radical approach. In Time to Change we saw something ambitious, strategic and exciting and so, as a funder who pride ourselves in being bold and brave, and it was time to put our money where our mouth was. Alongside the Big Lottery Fund, we made our first investment.

The attitudes and behaviours which have been embedded in our society for centuries weren’t going to be easy to shift, so we’d need to be in it for the long haul. And that’s what we’ve done – funding for 10 years to date. In addition to this, we have taken every opportunity to enhance our support by including films on Red Nose Day and encouraging our supporters and artists to get behind the issue of mental health.

Time to Change`s evaluations and learnings have been exemplary – the data is thorough, compelling and watertight. This means we can encourage, with confidence, the sharing of the learning with the other three anti-stigma programmes in the UK nations we support. And more broadly still, the evidence generated by this pioneering experience has great resonance globally.

Time to Change is Comic Relief`s biggest ever continuous UK grant in our history and we’ve stuck with it and continued to invest for the simple reason that it’s working - attitudes are changing and people with mental health problems now experience significantly less discrimination. In 2007 when Time to Change began it was still difficult to talk about mental health but thanks to a brilliantly run campaign; an on-going commitment from The Department of Health and charity partners Mind and Rethink Mental Illness; and a team which is skilled, committed, reflective and adaptive, the dial has shifted and the change feels unstoppable. But there’s more to be done and the job’s not over. We must find ways to make sure that when people ask for help, the help is there.

None of this would have been possible without two special mentions. I’d like to congratulate the brilliant leadership, tenacity, resilience and sheer commitment of the Time to Change team. And most importantly, I want to shout out to all of the brave people who’ve been prepared to share their personal, often very difficult stories, and stand up as strong, bold champions. We salute you all.