'We need people to speak out about it'

The comedian Jo Brand has joined the growing list of supporters for The Independent on Sunday's Mental Health campaign. Brand, a former psychiatric nurse at Maudsley hospital in London, believes that there is huge ignorance about the subject.

"People who I'd consider to be pretty intelligent don't seem to know the difference between mental illness and different forms of educational disability," she said. "If people that have been to university don't know, how we expect anyone who hasn't had a brilliant education to tell the difference I don't know really."

Brand included many of her fellow comics in the "ignorant" category. "You hear so many 'I'm a schizophrenic and so am I' jokes which people think are quite funny. But because they're based on such a poor knowledge of what schizophrenia is about they're just ridiculous."

The comic called on the rest of the British media to take up mental health issues responsibly. "The press could do a lot more – the tabloids in particular tend to pick photos of people with mental illness looking like wild animals. It's like any sort of prejudice – you have to keep chipping away at it and people who have experience of it have to speak out about it and not be ashamed."

Michael Kennedy, a leading mental health lawyer at Switalki's solicitors, also lent his support and attacked the Government for "focusing on risk issues and proposing preventative detention for people with severe personality disorders". He said more attention should be focused on prisoners with mental health problems.

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