by Priya Gill @priyangill
Last month, Team Clanger joined forces with Ben Salmons from the Let’s Be Open About Mental Health project, to host a #breakthestigma event at Bedford Market.
Ben set up the #breakthestigma campaign last year, to get people talking about mental health, to encourage people to ask for help when they need it and to break down barriers – the stigma which people who experience mental health difficulties face.
As part of the campaign, Ben invites people to write their thoughts on a white board to help ‘break the stigma’ and tackle common misconceptions about mental health.
34 year-old Ben, having struggled with depression, anxiety and paranoia for a number of years, ultimately tried to take his own life in 2011. He says, “If I was physically unwell I would have no problem in saying I needed a bit of time off, but I was so worried about admitting I was mentally unwell at the time due to the stigma surrounding mental health.”
Ben now runs the campaign for the Bedfordshire Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, provided by the East London NHS Foundation Trust. On the road to recovery and determined to make a difference, Ben says the campaign has inspired people to open up about their issues and seek help: “It is humbling to know that we are making a difference and it makes me determined to continue spreading the word and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health issues.”
Battling the April showers (and the noisy Wi-fi dealers next to us, who as luck would have it, asked How Are You Today?), we took to the town centre and asked Bedfordians to share their messages about mental health to help #breakthestigma.
An awesome array of brave and inspiring people took part to share powerful statements, have a read below and see a slideshow of the day here.
Gracie, 15, Student
“If people that I know see me getting help, then they may think ‘Oh, actually I can go and get help as well.’ Everyone says there is a light at the end of the tunnel, when you’re in that position it’s so difficult to see. The main thing is going to ask for help.”
Michael, 27, Hires Manager Graduation Attire
“There’s a difference between genders, in how we’re meant to deal with emotions; men have to be stoic and showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Some people might say get over it, man up, it’s not helpful at all, it can make you feel as though you’re alone…I’m happier that [mental health] is much more visible, and people are talking about it. Ten years ago people weren’t talking about it.”
Chris, 17, Sixth Form Student
“These [mental health conditions] are real conditions, the equivalent of cancer…we need to be talking about them as much as we do physical conditions. I think understanding mental health is very important, if we don’t understand, we don’t know what people are dealing with, we don’t know how we can help.”
Jo, 40, Mum
“Anxiety; you can’t see it, can you? It’s very difficult to explain to people what anxiety is. I’m much better than I was, I still have situations; a little bit of anxiety is there but not as bad as it used to be. People don’t like to talk about it…People need to be more compassionate about mental health, and have empathy.”
Jon, 48, Training Facilitator
“Though I feel embarrassed about my mental health and it’s very difficult for me to talk about it because I don’t want to appear weak, it’s very important to be open and I’m happy to talk about how I feel and why and what it makes me do…When you’re mentally ill, it [the stigma] is a huge added pressure which makes it worse. When you’re trying to act normal and people are telling you to just pull your socks up…I look brave on the outside, but I am like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz. I love my funny mind.”
What message would you share, to help #breakthestigma? Leave a message in the comments below.
For more information on the campaign please get in touch with Ben, email Ben.Salmons@elft.nhs.uk