Published: 26/10/2011 11:00 - Updated: 26/10/2011 09:27

United front to fight mental health stigma in Caithness

Written byby Alan Shields

‘See me’ campaign director Suzie Vestri and CHIF chair Pauline Craw signing the pledge.
‘See me’ campaign director Suzie Vestri and CHIF chair Pauline Craw signing the pledge.

THE social stigma surrounding mental ill health is to be stamped out in Caithness.

Caithness Health Improvement Forum pledged last Thursday to work with the “see me” Scottish campaign.

The group has agreed an action plan which aims to bring about an end to the stigma and discrimination experienced by people who have mental health problems.

CHIF chair Pauline Craw said the forum is taking a lead role in pulling the plug on discrimination locally.

“We see mental health as similar to physical health – if you don’t have good mental health then you can’t possibly achieve good physical health and vice versa,” she explained.

“We really see that mental health comes to the forefront and we need to be less stigmatised about it. On behalf of CHIF we have tried to bring this together and have mental health on every agenda because of its importance.”

Mrs Craw added: “We also want to pledge ourselves to say that we will help to stop that stigma of how people view mental health.”

The action plan focuses primarily on promotion of the campaign and advertising the support available to the those in need. Mrs Craw signed the pledge with “see me” campaign director Suzie Vestri at The Haven in Wick.

Ms Vestri told representatives of the group they were joining just under 300 other organisations around Scotland which have already signed up to the “see me” pledge.

“It’s okay ‘see me’ making TV adverts and writing to schools and all of those things but what really makes a difference is if every single organisation does its bit to tackle the stigma,” she said. “We know it’s that combination of national and local work that really gets mental health on to people’s agendas and really makes them sit up and take notice. It’s only by increasing numbers of us working together that we will reach that positive, equal, inclusive future that we all want.”

The “see me” campaign was launched in 2002 to put an end to the social taboo associated with mental ill health. It is an alliance of five mental health organisations and is fully funded by the Scottish Government.

The issue affects a huge proportion of the population of Scotland every day, explained Ms Vestri. “All the time we talk about one in four people experiencing a mental illness at some time,” she said.

“Three-quarters of us know someone who has a mental illness and around 40 per cent of people say that if they had a mental illness then they wouldn’t want anyone else to know.”

The campaign director added people who experience mental illness know how damaging the stigma can be.

Consequences can range from being excluded by friends and family, to problems in the workplace and a lack of ambition due to the fear of discrimination.

Ms Vestri said people with a mental health issue often stop doing things because of the fear of the reaction they may receive.

“People don’t come forward for help because they are scared of what that label will do to them,” she said.

“We know, unfortunately, what happens when some people don’t come forward for help until it’s far too late.

“People with a mental illness are put in a really difficult position.”

ACTION PLAN AGREED

CAITHNESS Health Improvement Forum has agreed to work with the mental health campaign, “see me”.

Together they hope to reduce the social stigma associated with mental ill health.

In order to do so an action plan was drawn up. It was agreed:

1: CHIF members will display “see me” posters and postcards in their respective meeting or work places.

2: The “see me” campaign will be promoted and publicised on the Caithness Partnership’s website with links to the “see me” website.

3: Mental health and wellbeing will be discussed as a regular item at quarterly meetings of CHIF.

4: Information on where to get support and help locally regarding mental health issues will be made available on the Caithness Partnership’s website.

5: Activities which tackle the stigma of mental ill health will be supported.

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