Thursday, 5 November 2015

Reducing Mental Health Stigma - An Interview



Hey Guys,

As you might know mental health week was in October.You also might know that mental health is a passion of mine. I was lucky enough to be able to interview Sorcha Lowry the campaign manager of seechange.ie to bring you some information.
Heres what she told me..


Can you tell me about seechange.ie and about what you do?

See Change is the national mental health stigma reduction partnership. So we are the national campaign to get people talking about mental health, and hopefully reduce the stigma and discrimination that surrounds it. So that nobody has to suffer in silence.

What exactly is stigma?

The easiest way to explain stigmas is the silence that we experience around mental health. When its the reason people are afraid to seek help if they are going through a tough time, or it is often the reason that people are afraid to talk about it and offer support because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. As well as that It can often translate into discrimination. We have seen stigma as all of the myths and negative stereotypes that surround mental health and limits the opportunity for some people who have personal experience with mental heath problems. So that could mean that a boss or a potential employer mightn't be informed enough about mental health and they might believe that somebody qualified to do the job might not be the best person for the job. Or it could even mean that people lose out on friendships and things like that because other people are afraid what might happen or afraid of the unknown.

What are some ways in which people can reduce the stigma?

Well the easiest way to do it is simply by talking. That's a job for everyone not just those who have personal experience but for absolutely everyone to be an open door and an  open book. To talk about their own mental heath be open about what's going on for them.Getting a bad day off your chest. But also in being able to support others and letting them know that they can talk if they want to talk and you will be there to listen, if they ever want to talk. Just so people know that they don't have to suffer in silence.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about talking opening up about their mental health struggles?

What we would say is that make sure that you choose wisely. Choose someone that you can trust, and choose someone that you think the conversation might go well with. We cant control what other peoples reaction will be, unfortunately. But at the same time, I cant stress the importance of talking enough. Its not that the other person is going to solve all of your problems, nor that you want them to. Just getting it off your chest it so good, even just by hearing it out loud you work it out yourself, without the other person getting a word in. That can totally help as well. But as well as that everybody has a role and friends and family are really important. But there comes a time when you might need professional support aswell, and that can be really really helpful and I think the best website to contact is yourmentalhealth.ie, because that has every support service in the country, every group, every organisation. You just go in and say where your from. What might be going on for you. What type of service you might be looking for and it will come up with a few of the most appropriate supports for you. So its really really helpful

What is the the best advice you can give someone whose friend has confined in you about their mental health struggles? As I know it can difficult to know what to say.

Exactly and you can imagine if your best friend turns around and tell you their are in a really dark place of course alarm bells are going to go off. But the most important thing to remember is, everybody is responsible for their own mental health. You are not responsible for anybody else and the most helpful thing you can do is to listen and to be there for someone in a non judgemental way. So not  to think that 'oh my god, she's my responsibility now I have to solve this problem as well as my own.' But actually all you are is that listening ear for someone, you can maybe help them identify what other supports are available. Who else they might be able to talk to or even if they need professional support. But really the most helpful thing you can do is provide that space and to listen.

What ways can your school/workplace get involved in reducing mental health stigma?

I think that's a really good idea for you as a group of  students/people to do rather than  waiting on teachers/employers to do something. Its the students/employees that are going to listen to the people that they identify with, rather than somebody talking in a book or a video or anything else like that. But actually if students and people's peers and friends and family start something up and say 'this is something we need to talk about, this is something we need to prioritise'. I think that could work really well.The one piece of advice I would give is, don't do it completely in isolation of the teachers/employers because they could open up a lot of doors. They could provide good resources and things like that. The simplest thing to do is to encourage people to talk. Whether that a board where people can leave messages on, in a public place so that people know that they are no alone, they don't have to suffer in silence. Or even you can order free green ribbons from seechange.ie So that everybody can wear one, if your got personal experience or not and its a really great sign of symbolic support, and you never know whose day you are going to make by wearing one.

If you want to want to help break the stigma surrounding mental health or if you just want to show some your support. Make sure you check out www.seechange.ie

Thank you so much to Sorcha for giving up her time to do this interview with me it means a lot.

Love always,
Nixie x





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