Dave's Progress. Chapter 22: Time to Change.

After my last blog, I thought I might say a little bit about what is actually being done to combat the stigma surrounding mental ill health. Instead of being so negative, I thought I would try a shot of positivity and finally accept that much is currently underway to try to stop the many outmoded attitudes that continue to plague those experiencing mental ill health.
For a start there is a national campaign currently underway in the UK, called "Time to Change". It is, by any account, a massive and truly national campaign that is taking place over the next four years at a cost of some sixteen million pounds. Most of the leading mental health charities, like Mind and Rethink, are involved, all tying to portray a positive, realistic and sympathetic portrait of those experiencing mental ill health. After a somewhat disappointing initial TV ad, I can only say that I am impressed by the vigour and range of this campaign. Many celebs in the UK have also "come out" in its support, as they have suffered some form of mental distress themselves. Alastair Campbell (depression, I believe at some point psychosis, and alcohol abuse), Stephen Fry (bipolar) and Ruby Wax (depression) all speak from the heart about their experience of mental ill health and try, with their arguments, to dispel the myths and reiterate the facts and break down the barriers which stigma seems to have so solidly erected. The campaign also points out that many historical figures have been sufferers of mental ill health. Their famous five includes Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie. The campaign points out that if these individuals had been the victims of stigma, the world might be a very different place to what it is today. Which I suppose points to one of the key messages of the campaign, that is that the mentally ill can and do become positive and productive members of society, instead of the mostly imposed social isolation that stigma brings about. The campaign also makes it clear that mental ill health can happen to anyone and is common (we all know the one in four statistic) and that, therefore, the attitudes and behaviour of all towards those in distress is important, as the more support we have, the more able we are to make a genuine, full recovery.
So, will this campaign actually change anything? It's intended outcome is something like a modest five per cent swing in attitudes amongst those who perhaps not directly, but almost subconsciously discriminate against the mentally ill. It, therefore, does not hope to bring about sweeping, but only modest change, and for such a large campaign, this is perhaps also a little disappointing. However, a step in the right direction it most certainly is. For more info go to the "Time to Change" website, where you can view the TV ad, read blogs and personal testimonies and find out about events in your area.
Anyway, speaking of modest campaigns and intentions, MAGMH will be launching its own anti-stigma campaign around April of this year. I am currently working with others to try to assert what our key messages will be and who will be our target audience for these messages. The campaign is not a national one, but will be based solely in the Stoke-on-Trent area and should have a distinctively local feel.
So, perhaps I am a bit overly mopey when it comes to stigma, as we are getting help and, indeed, are helping ourselves. It's just a matter of convincing the general public that it is indeed time to change.
That's all for now from your normal, average, paranoid and delusional man.


klahanie said…
Hi David,
Thanks for another informative and rather positive blog.
In regards to: 'Time to Change',I am a registered member of their site. They were asking for potential bloggers to send them an email with some of their writing. I submitted my blog via email about 3 weeks ago but have had no reply. We shall wait and see:-)
When it comes to the 'stigma', I do believe that progress is being made. The media 'sensationalising'
mental health issues in a negative, stereotypical approach, still needs to be addressed. Yet, on a positive note, I do believe that folks' perceptions of those of us with mental health concerns are slowly shifting to more of an understanding.
Thanks again for another excellent blog, David. Warm wishes Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks once again for your encouraging comments. I think you may be right that things are moving in the right direction.
Understanding for depression would seem to be getting much better than it ever has been. According to my research, though, there is still a long way to go in terms of more "severe" mental health conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia. The link made, for example, between schizophrenia and violence, which, as you say, is exacerbated by sensationalist media coverage, proves to be a difficult stereotype to break, despite numerous statistics that can be quoted to support the claim that those with such conditions are often more vulnerable to attack than to attack others and that only a very small minority of patients are responsible for such behaviour. In the face of an overwhelmingly negative media, it is difficult for our message to seep into mainstream culture, despite it being THE TRUTH.
Anyway, I am ranting once again. I shall remain positive despite all this.
Yours Sincerely,
P.S. I hope "time to change" eventually gets your blog, it would be great to see it get a wider readership.
dcrelief said…
Hello David,
Thank you for the amount of time and research you've put into the last two blogs in order to give fair coverage to all sides. Bravo for the positive attitude.
Most sincerely, Dixie
Hi David,

You have made a lot of great points with your blog. I'm glad I found it.

The "stigma" surrounding mental illness is in my opinion more damaging than the illness itself. People are afraid to reach out for help for fear that they could end up as an outcast. They quietly suffer which only serves to magnify their problems.

Change is slow but it is happening. I don't know if we can reverse all the negative connotations that go with mental illness in my, or my children's lifetimes but it is getting better.

There is a huge gap between mental illness and insanity yet the image projected most of the time is of the clinically insane rather than the functional person dealing with clinical depression.

Many of the seriously ill people could have been helped much more easily had they felt able to reach out early on.

Awareness is the key and I'm happy to see the effort being made to educate even a small percentage of the population.

Thanks for sharing.

David said…
Dear Dixie and Roger,
Thanks for your comments. To Roger inparticular, thankyou for visiting and becoming a follower of my blog. Your understanding of mental health issues is much appreciated, and, like you, I have come to believe that the stigma surrounding mental ill health can often be as, if not more, debilitating than the illness itself. Thankyou for understanding that we must do all we can to get rid of the terrible prejudices which surround mental ill health and the horrible alienation which accompanies them. I hope you enjoyed your "first time" reading my blog and you are welcome back to comment anytime.
To Dixie, thanks as ever for your warm and encouraging remarks. Need I say more?
Yours with all the Best,

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