Scotland tackles mental health

ANNIE KELLY

Five charities have joined forces to launch a new campaign that aims to eliminate the stigma around mental health in Scotland.

The 'See Me' campaign, backed and funded by the Scottish Executive, will be managed by the Highland Users Group, National Schizophrenia Fellowship Scotland, Penumbra, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the Scottish Association of Mental Health.

The campaign will distribute 90,000 leaflets and use 20,000 posters and ads and a TV and cinema campaign to try and change people's negative perceptions of mental health problems.

A range of anti-stigma resource materials and a dedicated web site, www.seemescotland.org, will also be used to complement national and local initiatives throughout Scotland.

"We've got the resources and the backing to make the 'See Me' campaign really have an impact dispelling the negativity and misunderstanding surrounding mental health issues,

said Linda Dunion, campaigns director for the 'See Me' project. "The campaign forms a part of a wider programme to improve mental health throughout Scotland, and it's vital that we get it right."

All five charities will use their membership and volunteer communities to help take the campaign message to local areas around Scotland. Dunion believes that the alliance is perfectly placed to ensure that the initiative reached the widest audience.

"This campaign is being championed by organisations who are in daily contact with people with mental health problems, and we have the clout and credibility to get people listening,

she said. "We're also all membership organisations with networks throughout Scotland which will enable us to roll out the campaign on a local level, which is a capacity that the Executive simply doesn't have."

The campaign uses the tagline 'see the person not the label' and will attempt to raise awareness of the fact that one in four people in Scotland suffer some form of mental illness every year. The alliance developed the campaign around findings from a wide-ranging national survey that found that the shame of having a mental health problem is so high that almost 50 per cent of respondents claimed that they would try and hide any kind of mental illness.

It will highlight the personal stories of individuals who have struggled with mental health problems in order to encourage others to speak more openly about their illness and subsequent treatment.

Dunion said that the campaign would run "for as long as it is needed".

Funding for the project came after the alliance lobbied the Executive for an anti-stigma mental health campaign, and is part of the Executive's National Programme for the Improvement of Mental Health and Well-Being.

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