People in the Highlands and Islands experience “awful” mental health stigma

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People in the Highlands and Islands have experienced “awful” mental health stigma and discrimination and action needs to be taken to end it, a national programme said today [Tuesday].

See Me is urging people to take action and change lives as it launched its new campaign, ‘People like YOU will end mental health discrimination’.

Nine out of ten people with mental health problems still suffer from stigma or discrimination in work, education, health care and at home, according to See Me.

Gemma Patterson, from South Uist, Outer Hebrides, said that people seemed to think it was ok to “make fun of someone in a lot of pain”.

The 22 year old said: “People at school were awful to me.

“They would call me crazy. I have a twin sister and people would come up to me and say ‘are you the crazy one?’ That is how people would work out which of us was which.

“I was also off school for a while, not related to my mental health, but when I was back people asked me if I had been in the looney bin. They just didn’t have a clue what they were on about.

“The stigma and discrimination made me feel really angry. It really made me angry that people thought they could have an opinion on something that they knew nothing about.

“Having a mental health problem is really scary but people just don’t seem to care about that.

“It seemed to be ok to make fun of someone in a lot of pain.”

See Me said that two out of three people with mental health problems actually stop some day to day activities because of the fear of stigma.

The programme, to end mental health stigma and discrimination, want people to take action, which collectively will give a united and powerful voice to change negative behaviour.

The action could range from directly challenging someone they see discriminating, to supporting someone who is struggling due to a mental health problem.

With one in four people likely to experience a mental health problem every year, the new campaign is calling on the other three in four to be there to help.

Judith Robertson, See Me Programme Director, said: “Today we are launching a campaign which signals the end of a culture in Scotland that actively discriminates against people with mental health problems, stigmatising them and their families.

“Everyone has mental health and we can all be hit by mental ill-health. But we each have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of our families, friends and colleagues when they are affected by mental health problems.

“All over the Highlands and Islands people like you will end mental health stigma and discrimination wherever it occurs.

“See Me, our partners, allies and supporters are building a movement which will bring people together from all over the country and encourage them to challenge discrimination at its roots.

“Our goal is equality that ensures people with mental health problems have the same opportunities as others to lead a fulfilled life.”

Pictured is Gemma Paterson, who struggled with stigma during her illness.