Time for mental health problems to come out from the shadows of Irish society, says See Change at launch of campaign to end stigma
Dublin, Wednesday May 4th, 2011: It’s time for mental health problems to come out from the shadows of Irish society, said John Saunders, Director of See Change – a coalition of 45 national organisations working to end the stigma of mental health problems in Ireland.
Mr. Saunders made the comments before his opening address to over 250 people at the launch of Make a Ripple – a national online campaign to encourage members of the public to share their experiences of mental health problems (7.30pm, 04/05/11).
“For too long mental health problems have been shrouded in silence, discussed in whispered tones, and hidden from friends, colleagues and family members. The stigma associated with mental health problems in Ireland has to stop, and the See Change Make a Ripple campaign gives people an opportunity to tell their story openly and honestly, to help build public understanding that mental health problems can affect anyone and that recovery is absolutely possible,” said Mr. Saunders
Speaking at the launch, Barbara Brennan, who has bi-polar disorder, spoke about her own experience of mental health problems and appealed for everyone to examine their own attitudes, and help end stigma and discrimination.
“I remember being brought by my parents to meet a specialist for the first time. I was terrified. Hushed tones were spoken and lots of private conversations had. It went on like that for years, with admissions to psychiatric hospitals in between. I dropped out of life sometime during those years. Constant medication, fear and ignorance will do that to you.”
Speaking about her journey to recovery following an attempt to take her own life, Barbara said that the stigma that surrounds mental health problems stops people from coming forward for help, and destroys lives, families, careers and communities.
“Today, I am healthy. I am well. I am very much alive. I bought my first house with my fiancé last year, and we just got married last month. I’m two years off medication and I’ve managed to keep wellness and vitality in my life. Today, and everyday, I want to speak out about the stigma around mental illness. If I had not been so frightened of what was happening to me, had I gone for help earlier, had I understood how much I actually could do for myself…my mind boggles at how different my life would have been. I am young. I’ve had severe mental health problems, and I don’t care who knows it” said Ms. Brennan.
Make a Ripple encourages members of the public to log on to www.seechange.ie and share their story about mental health problems. The launch follows a landmark study – commissioned by See Change – to examine the discussion of mental health problems on Irish online forums and social networks. John Saunders said that the study highlights the need for the Make a Ripple campaign and provides a safe and supportive place on the web for people to speak about their own experiences.
“An in-depth analysis of online conversations about mental health problems found that about 1 in 5 conversations are negative and include disclosures of suicidal behaviour, discussion of suicide attempts, jokes and derogatory comments. Even where responses to disclosures of mental health problems were positive, only 41% of people were actually signposted towards relevant support services. The Make a Ripple campaign provides a safe, supportive space for people to talk about their own experiences,” said Mr. Saunders
The launch took place at Dublin’s Sugar Club and brought together members of the public, leaders in the mental health and voluntary sector, politicians and policy makers and people with their own experience of mental health problems. The Make a Ripple campaign was formally launched and welcomed by Kathleen Lynch TD, Minister for Disability, Equality and Mental Health
About See Change:
- See Change is a coalition of 45 organisations (including IBEC, ICTU, IFA, Amnesty International Ireland, HSE, Mental Health Reform) committed to reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems
About mental health problems in Ireland (MRBI, Public attitudes to mental health problems in Ireland, See Change, 2010)
- 1 in 4 people in Ireland will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives
- 33% of the Irish public think that someone with schizophrenia should not have children
- 2 in 3 strongly agree that those with mental health problems should have the same rights as others but only 46% say this is in respect of job rights
- Over 1 in 2 think mental health issues very common but not well understood
- 16% would hide diagnosis from their family
- 7% say a partner would break up with them as a result of diagnosis
- 53% of young men surveyed would not know what to do to help someone with mental health problems
- 29% would delay seeking help for fear of someone knowing about it
For more information and to arrange interviews contact:
Communications & Partnership Coordinator
See Change Campaign
38 Blessington Street