See Change welcomes RTE Frontline debate on stigma

John Saunders, Director of See Change, Ireland’s national programme to reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems – has strongly welcomed the debate on mental health services, suicide and stigma that was aired on RTE’s Frontline on Monday, 16th January 2012.

Mr Saunders commented;

“The programme clearly illustrated the wide reach of these important issues, not least the high rate of suicide, the development of good mental health services and the issue of stigma.”

“It is clear from the debate that there needs to be significant additional investment in tackling the issue of suicide and in developing an appropriate and responsive community mental health service. Underlining this urgency is the need to tackle directly the stigma associated with mental health problems. We know that stigma reduces the likelihood of people seeking help.”

Irish and international research consistently reports that the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems acts as a barrier to people coming forward to seek help and is often cited as as difficult to manage as the experience of being unwell.

See Change is the national movement for stigma reduction in Ireland, working in partnership with over 50 organisations representing every sector of society to inspire open and honest conversation of mental health problems.

Tackling the ingrained stigma that surrounds mental health problems will not happen overnight. See Change uses an internationally tested, multi-pronged and community-driven approach to create meaningful social change, the cornerstone of which is social contact theory – where individuals with lived experience share their stories – and people (one person at a time) realise that mental health problems are indeed quite ordinary and that there should be no prejudice around our mental health.

In response to the discussion on yesterday’s Frontline programme, Mr. Saunders opened the call to interested organisations to join the See Change movement as a partner organisation;

“The work of See Change is underpinned and driven by a partnership model. We recognise that the job of challenging stigma and changing attitudes to mental health problems needs concerted effort and collaboration with like-minded groups from every sector of society. If See Change is to make a decisive impact on stigma and discrimination, then we can’t go it alone.”

He continued; “I’m reminded of the words of American anthropologist Margaret Mead when she said;

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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