by Nicola Brown
In light of the controversial “mental patient” costumes sold by leading Supermarkets, Edinburgh charity ‘See Me’ has recently granted £40,000 to local groups in a battle to change attitudes.
With the stigma of mental illness still the dirty underbelly of Scottish society as shown through Asda and Tesco’s offensive Halloween costumes, a Scottish government initiative aims to tackle these issues. Recent government statistics have revealed that over a third of the population are affected by mental disorders each year. The most common afflictions being depression and anxiety. Yet many sufferers are still being stigmatised, which according to the Mental Health Foundation, can make it harder to recover. The charity ‘See Me’, which is fully funded by the Scottish government, aims to empower these people to speak out in a collective voice.
A spokesperson for See Me, Annie Ashby, said: “[The grants] seek to encourage organisations to take a lead in changing public attitudes and behaviours towards people with mental health problems by engaging with their local community. People with lived experience of mental ill-health have a key role in the delivery of each project.”
The changing attitudes are being achieved through the money awarded to 4 Young People’s Awards and 6 Local Grant Scheme Awards. Among the groups benefiting from the grants is HUG, with the project name ‘Vibrant Highland’, who have been awarded £4,000. The aim is to create a Highland youth group comprising 13-25 year olds with mental health problems. The grant will place them alongside other young people with the aim of educating them about their rights, as well as producing a DVD to highlight how attitudes have affected them. The charity think it important that these young people have a say in vital decisions that will impact their lives.
Another group to be awarded is LGBT Health and Well Being, also given £4,000. The Edinburgh based group is the largest community organisation helping young people affected by the stigma associated with their sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). The grant will fund creative writing workshops held by professionals who have lived with mental illness. The workshops will encourage people afflicted by a diverse range of mental disorders to channel their experiences creatively. The participants writing efforts will then be bound in a book, with the writers offering training and guidance on how to design the layout. The book will be launched at a celebratory public event to raise awareness about their shared experiences.
The way in which society responds to those suffering from mental disorders is improving through the work carried out in the media. Monday night witnessed the twentieth anniversary of the Mind Media Awards. The night played host to journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and documentaries, which celebrated those depicting an accurate picture of mental heath and as a result, challenging the stigma. Chief Executive at Rethink Mental Illness, tweeted: “Very impressive to be celebrating 20 years of#VMGMindAwards great contribution to changing attitudes towards mental health.”