Designed to challenge pre-conceived ideas
Thousands of Scots have tuned in for the first of a series of online events aimed at bringing people together to talk about mental health and challenge stigma.
The Anti Stigma Summer session are being put on by See Me, the national programme to end mental health discrimination, alongside research showing that nearly a quarter of people in Scotland don’t feel comfortable speaking about mental health in their community.
With communities across Scotland moving online, See Me says that can make it even harder to speak about mental health.
The Anti Stigma Summer Sessions were created in reaction to that, to bring people together online, to chat about mental health and to work together to challenge stigma and discrimination, using art, poetry, community activism, story sharing and more.
The first two live events, have had over 6,200 views, with a book reading from Scottish author Spencer Mason, being watched over 5,000 times, and over 1,000 watched the Voice Behind the Picture, an event by See Me and Glasgow’s In Motion Theatre Company, where 14 artists performed pieces on mental health over a live Youtube stream, while theatres remain closed.
Spencer shared extracts of his book Other Tongues, and talked openly about his experience of living with schizoaffective disorder.
Spencer, 22, from Dundee, wanted to get involved in the Summer Sessions with See Me so he could share his experiences, and get more information out on schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness that can affect people’s thoughts, mood and behaviour.
He said: “Up until I was 16 I assumed that everyone had voices in their head, I didn’t realise I was different. And when I was told that wasn’t normal, that was the moment that I didn’t want to speak to people. Once I knew I was different and it is something that people have preconceptions about, I didn’t want to talk about it.
“When you tell someone ‘I have voices in my head and they speak to me all the time’ you can see in their facial expressions what their reaction is.
“But I wanted to share my story because I’ve been hiding parts of myself for nearly 22 years now. I was fed up of hiding parts of myself that actually make up a section of who I am.
“Speaking about experiences helps to tackle stigma and change the way people think because we still function in a society where we label things as taboo subjects. But the only reason they are taboo is because they aren’t spoken about enough.
“There is a lot less information out there on schizoaffective disorder, and I think with that there then becomes an assumption that it must be so vastly different, but I would put money on it that everyone could relate to the same experiences I have with my mental health in some way.
“We shouldn’t discredit people, one label shouldn’t dictate how we treat a whole person.”
A poll carried out by Censuswide, for See Me asked what made people feel confident to tackle stigma and discrimination and a third (33 per cent) said it was due to hearing other people speak out.
Lynn Pilkington, See Me social movement support officer, said: “We don’t want people to feel alone and like there is no where to speak about mental health.
“So the Anti Stigma Summer Sessions will be an opportunity for people across the country, who are passionate about tackle mental health stigma, to hear from each other and make all our communities more mental-health-friendly.”
Lisa Nicoll, creative director, In Motion Theatre Company, said: "The Voice Behind the Picture has been created to allow more truths to be told, even just a glance, a vulnerability that can keep us more connected as humans and not be afraid to speak our truth and have more voices heard without judgment and stigma.”