People urged to help reduce stigma around mental health

Senan Hogan

Reporter:

Senan Hogan

People urged to help reduce stigma around mental health

See Change, Ireland’s national mental health stigma reduction programme, is
working positively to reduce the stigma and challenge discrimination associated with
mental health problems.

Funded by the National Office of Suicide Prevention, See
Change strive to change minds about mental health, so each person has an open
and positive attitude to their own and others’ mental health.

Over the past seven years, See Change has run the national Green Ribbon Stigma
Reduction campaign throughout the country.

The Green Ribbon Campaign aims to
end the stigma and change people’s attitudes to mental health problems by
prompting hundreds of events and thousands of conversations all over Ireland during
the month of May each year.


Over 100 partner organisations around the country, at both national and local level,
work alongside See Change to empower people to start opening up and talking
about mental health.

See Change also run an ambassador programme, consisting of
a group of people with lived experience of mental health difficulties who use their
story and their expertise to challenge the stigma around mental health and change
how we think and talk about mental health.


“I decided to become an ambassador because I wanted to share my story in a way
that would be beneficial to others. For a long time I felt ashamed of being ill, and by
becoming an ambassador, I showed that I wasn’t ashamed and this was just me.
Trying to start a conversation. The lived experience is so important to share, for me I
know it made me feel less a lone hearing the other ambassadors and that is a
massive part of why I tried to get involved. To destigmatize and help others suffering
similarly to me, feel less alone”- Jess McCaul, See Change Ambassador

See Change identified the workplace as a key setting for social change around
attitudes to mental health problems to take place, developing a Workplace
Programme to help facilitate a cultural shift in workplaces so that employees and
employers feel supported in starting a discussion around mental health.
But what is mental health stigma and why is it a central experience for people
who have mental health conditions?
Stigma manifests itself in stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Stigma is a very
common experience and significant problem for people who experience mental ill
health and has been recognised as a barrier to recovery. 4 in 10 people said that
they would conceal a mental health problem from family, friends or colleagues,
according to research commissioned by See Change in 2017.
People with mental ill health experience stigma in a number of areas including
employment, education, media, community and within families. Psychosis,
schizophrenia, bi-polar and depression are seen as lifelong labels, which mark a
person as different from the rest of society. This can lead to feelings of isolation and
make the experience of living with mental health difficulties much worse.

Words matter – The language of mental health stigma
The language that is commonly used about mental health can also create a barrier to
truly understanding and helping others. The use of language to describe a person
experiencing mental health difficulties can be demeaning and isolating. Although the
use of words such as crazy, nuts or psycho may seem trivial and innocent they are
the building blocks of stigma that may lead someone to conceal their difficulty.
What can you do?
World Suicide Prevention Day takes place on Tuesday 10th September. To mark the
day, See Change are urging everyone to understand, challenge and reduce the
stigma associated with so many aspects of mental health.


Here are some things that you can do;
 Educate yourself on mental health difficulties and the recovery process
 Recognise the contribution of people who experience mental health difficulties
 Challenge stigma and discrimination when you hear or see it
 Consider the language you use and how a simple change will show your
openness and acceptance
 Start a conversation with a friend, family member or colleague about mental
health
For more information on stigma, becoming a partner, the ambassador
programme and the Workplace Programme, visit www.Seechange.ie
See Change is a programme of Shine – Supporting People Affected by Mental
Ill Health www.shine.ie