A “eye-opening” programme wants people from the Western Isles to help drastically reduce mental health stigma and discrimination.
‘See Me’ – the national programme to end mental health discrimination – wants to discover how stigma is affecting the lives of people in the Western Isles who are experiencing mental health conditions.
To do this they are looking for people to become ‘community champions’, leaders in the area who identify where discrimination exists, and take action to change it.
‘See Me’ currently has community champions in other areas of the country, who are tackling mental health stigma at universities, with young people in the east end of Glasgow and in health care.
The champions, who have personal experience of mental health conditions, went through a four day training programme, carried out over six months, to develop the skills they need to target the areas where issues exist.
Richard Monaghan, one of See Me’s first champions, based in Moffat, wanted to make a change because he felt there was a reluctance to talk about mental health, which led to a build-up of negative attitudes.
His first step was to hold a fundraising coffee morning last month. Over 200 people attended and £1500 was raised for charity.
He said: “Mental health problems don’t discriminate, they attack anybody and everybody.
“Champions training opened my eyes to being a mental health activist and it put me in touch with likeminded people who had undergone similar experiences.
“I hope the champions will be able to change the way we look at mental health and if not eliminate stigma and discrimination then certainly reduce it drastically.”
Artist Gillian Orr, from Glasgow, who is tackling stigma using the arts, said: “For me a great leader is not someone who creates followers but creates more great leaders.
“I used to be one of the folk saying and agreeing that change was impossible, we would never be able to do this and it would always be this way.
“But I have actually found that you have a switch and you can turn that thinking round.”
See Me wants to recruit champions from the Western Isles, who could challenge discrimination in workplaces, in health and social care, with children and young people or by engaging their local community.
Rebekah Moore from See Me, who runs the community champions programme, said: “We know that two out of three people with mental health conditions stop some day to day activities for fear of stigma and discrimination. This is unacceptable and limits people’s opportunity to lead fulfilled lives.
“One of the ways we are challenging this is through the community champion leadership programme.
“The programme empowers people to become leaders in their local area, who can inspire communities to take action against stigma and discrimination
“It creates more connected and healthier communities where people with mental health problems are supported.
“This is particularly important in rural areas where social isolation can exacerbate mental health problems.”
For information on applying visit https://www.seemescotland.org/our-movement-for-change/supporters/champions/ or contact Rebekah Moore on 0141 530 1093 and email@example.com.