Pandemic will create more problems
Scots are being asked to tackle stigma and discrimination around mental health in 2021, with increasing numbers struggling to speak out due to the pandemic.
As the new year begins, See Me, the national programme to end mental health discrimination, is encouraging people to reach out to others who they think might be struggling alone.
The programme spoke to 40 of their volunteers after the first lockdown, finding over half (54%) said they were worried about sharing their difficulties with others because everyone was going through tough times.
With continuing lockdowns at the start of 2021, See Me is encouraging community groups, workplaces, schools, universities and health and social care providers in Scotland to make a difference, by getting involved in Time to Talk Day, on February 4.
Time to Talk Day will get the nation talking about mental health, so people never have to feel embarrassed or ashamed to say they are struggling. It will show how a small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference, and that this is something we can all do for each other.
See Me volunteer Tommy Kelly, 40, from Dalry in Ayrshire, said: “Speaking has definitely been more difficult during the pandemic because people have been going through a lot – and dying – so your problems seem miniscule. I think where the pandemic has also affected me is being home and having a lot of time on my hands. It’s around now that I have the anniversary of a difficult point in my life. In other years, I’ve been able to get out and keep busy. But, not being able to do that means I can be left with depressive thoughts.
“A lot of others have opened up about what they’re going through mentally, though, so that’s been one thing. People have shared on Facebook when they never have before – people with good lives on the outside, which shows everyone can struggle with their mental health. It’s become clear to others that we all have mental health.”
The See Me survey explored how the pandemic, lockdown and social distancing has affected the stigma experienced by those who live with mental health problems. People said social media and media had made them feel they shouldn’t be struggling when others were in a worse position due to Covid 19. They said they were less likely to share, and that having more time to think in isolation led to them feeling shame and guilt.
Research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists last year found 43% of psychiatrists have seen an increase in urgent and emergency cases following the COVID-19 lockdown, and that will increase following the pandemic.
Wendy Halliday, See Me director, said: “Has there ever been a more important time for us to talk about our mental health than in 2021? Too many people with mental health problems are still made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. To break down the stigma, we can all play a part in building better cultures around mental health.
“A small conversation has the power to make a big difference, and starting a conversation is such a simple thing we can all do for one another – not just on Time to Talk Day. Despite the circumstances, we want to make this year’s event bigger and better than any before. Perhaps we can make 2021 the Year of the Conversation.”
Tommy Kelly added: “The more we all speak, the more we lessen the stigma. It’s as simple as someone reaching out and asking how you are and if they can help in any way.”