Dave's Progress. Chapter 71: Local People, Local Lives Campaign Begins.

This will be just a short and somewhat belated blog to say that, at The Media Action Group for Mental Health (MAGMH), where, as some of you will know, I work as a volunteer, our "Local People, Local Lives" anti-stigma campaign is finally well and truly underway.
Unlike the current "Time to Change" campaign, ours is not a national endeavour, but rather one firmly based around our own locality of Stoke-on-Trent. Indeed, our new volunteers who have joined up for the campaign will eventually be producing anti-stigma material of their own which not only , in some way, narrates and relates their own experience of mental ill health, but also gives an impression of who they are as a human being, showing their interests and achievements within the locality of Stoke. The point is to show that everyone who has experienced mental illness is more than just their diagnosis. So often in the media people are described as "a schizophrenic" or "a manic depressive", so we wanted to show that everyone is more than the label which has been applied to them and that we all have a story or history, and the local angle will give those reading the material something which they can relate to as inhabitants of the Stoke-on-Trent area.
Our team at MAGMH have done much research in to how we should go about our campaign, and although it is based on ideas that have yet to be proven to work in reducing stigma, we feel at least it is a new direction to take which will contrast and perhaps compliment the work of other campaigns, which always seem to mention mental health first, and the person behind it second. In our campaign the role taken by someone's mental ill health will definitely come over as secondary to the person experiencing it. Such thinking is based on modern "social marketing" techniques and we can but hope that it will have some impact on those reading it, or watching it for that matter, as the campaign will be using a variety of media to get its points across.
So, the volunteers have just undertaken a six week training course, where everything from the language used to describe mental ill health to the nature of stigma and self-stigma to representations of mental ill health in the media, amongst other subjects, were thoroughly debated and discussed. All the volunteers will now go on to produce their own anti-stigma material, whether it be written, visual, or internet oriented. Indeed, one of the aims of the project is to empower our volunteers, to give them confidence in moving on with their recoveries through the production of their own work. May I wish good luck, then, to Mark, Yaqub, Kerry and Larone as they venture in to the world of anti-stigma campaigning.
A preliminary date of October has been set for the completion of the material, so if you happen to live in Stoke and see any of our work floating around nearer the end of this year, please take a look and see what you think.
That's all for now from your normal, average delusional and paranoid man.


bazza said…
Hi David. How do you actually do this kind of work?
I would have thought a long term view of things would be needed.
Perhaps targeting schools.
When my daughter was at primary school (age 5 to 10) they mixed in handicapped kids in the class taking the view that young children would accept them naturally.
My daughter(s) have always had a healthy attitude to people in wheelchairs or using crutches as a result.
David said…
Dear bazza,
Thank you, first, for your comment. It is an extremely good question.
It is, indeed, quite difficult to go about trying to change the attitudes and behaviour of people, and there has been surprsingly little research done on what actually works. What is known is that actually mixing people with experience of mental ill health who confound the stereotypes of it, together with those who do not have any experience of mental illness, does seem to change people's outlook. Educational campaigns alone seem to be less effective. So, the approach your daughter's school took to introducing children to other handicapped kids would seem to have been a wise and effective move.
So, we can only hope our own small camapaign will have some effect locally. Our material will be distributed in areas where it is known that stigma often impacts on the lives of those with a mental illness, e.g. schools, colleges and universities, police stations, social and mental health services themselves, job centres etc, etc. We can, then, at least, target our campaign to areas whuch have been identified in surveys by people with mental ill health as places where thay have experienced stigma.
It is much more difficult though to get through to the "general" public, and this is a shame as it is known that stigma can often come from the work place or friends, neighbours and family. How, then, to target such people? Obviously, we will try to distribute our material to as many public places as we can, but its impact, I'm afraid, may remain an enigma. We have not got the resources to evaluate impact as well as produce the material.
So, I think, as we have both said before, perhaps the only true answer to alleviating stigma around mental illness is to teach about mental ill health in schools at a relatively young age, the same way in which one would teach about physical well being. This would seem to be the long-term answer, while short-term ones remain yet to be proven to work.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Some most interesting interaction between 'bazza' and your good self.
Education is most assuredly a vital key in all of this. I know, from personal experience of witnessing interaction within schools regarding able-bodied and children with special needs works very well. My former spouse worked in an integrated daycare centre in Canada with most positive results.
Hopefully, awareness of mental health concerns can be approached in a similar manner, at a relatively young age; can help reduce the unfair stigma attached to mental health issues.
Wishing you and the volunteers, a most inspirational outcome with the 'Local People, Local Lives' campaign.
With respect and kindness, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your good wishes and thoughts on "what works" in reducing stigma.
As you know, you may well have been part of our small campaign yourself, but all the same, I am sure you are still welcome anytime at MAGMH and all the gang would love to see you sometime.
Yours with Very Best Wishes and hoping that all is going well for you,
dcrelief said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
dcrelief said…
Dear David,
Forgive my previous short comment. I lost the link I wanted to share. Then I 'panicked' over the post above me, with the strange box symbols.
I'd like to say that your work with this particular group has always created interest for me. Some very humane ideas and practices are created and initiated. Thank you for sharing freely. I like the way you address, the 'whole person's' health!
Be well. I hope to catch up shortly with the next post you've written.
Good wishes,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thanks so much for passing by and commenting.
We do try our best at MAGMH to reduce stigma and empower people. Indeed, my own expereince of working there has increased my confidence no end. I hope that other people will be able to get the same out of it.
Anyway, I hope that you too, are well and feeling empowered!
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

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