As the event begins to frame and prioritise actions to take forward, we asked Amanda O’Connell to give her impressions of the event based on following social media feeds, and to share some of the things that she’d like to see happen in the programme ahead:
See Me Now… I’m Amanda O’Connell. I’m a mental health trainer, a peer support group facilitator and I live with a mental illness. A co-inciding training course delivery left me unable to join #SeeMe14 in person, so twitter and its ‘live tweeting’ feature was certainly welcomed and of course the blog is a fantastic addition as well.
Here are just some of my thoughts on how we can reduce stigma:
- More focus on the 100% who have mental health- When hearing about mental health, the statistic that 1 in 4 will experience a mental health problem in the course of a year is often quoted. But surely we need to focus as much on the 100% of people have mental health – to get the message out there that we all have mental health / wellbeing, and that mental health is relevant to everyone. That in itself will reduce stigma by reducing the ‘them and us’ attitudes.
- Mental health education for all – Mental health training has traditionally been too focused on those undertaking it as part of their work, particularly those in a caring occupation. But everyone knows people with mental health difficulties and everyone has the power to help. Let’s target training more at the general public, and help everyone see the benefit of training for them.
- Treat mental health like we treat physical health – Some people have problems with their physical health sometimes. Similarly, some people will have problems with their physical health sometimes – and that’s ok. Let’s treat mental health similarly to physical health; hence normalising it, developing more acceptance and less fear.
- Open and honest talk – Open talk about mental health is a key factor in fighting stigma and increases understanding and awareness all round, developing true insight, empathy and understanding.
- Think about our own attitudes and behaviours –We all have the potential within us to act in a stigmatising way, perhaps without even realising it. Even those who’ve experienced mental health problems themselves may stigmatise others – often through being influenced by our own experiences. In anti-stigma planning we need to think not just about others’ behaviours and attitudes, but also our own.
- Consider the barriers– In considering how to reduce stigma, we also need to consider the barriers to doing so, and how we can overcome these barriers. ‘Open and honest talk? Great – but are people really listening? Why not, and how can we change this?’ being just one example. And an ever present concern of mine – are we constantly talking together and essentially preaching to the converted? How do we really reach the right people, reach the areas where change is most needed?
A little food for thought…!
Here’s to Day 2 of the event! It’s great to see so many get involved.
I love this quote by Lily Tomlin, ‘I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realised I was somebody’’, an important reminder of the part we all play in making a difference.