Mid-Ulster MLAs support mental health campaign to stamp out stigma

MID-ULSTER MLAs lent their support to a campaign aiming to stamp out mental illness stigma.

The Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health took its ‘Change your Mind, Stamp out Stigma’ campaign to Stormont where it unveiled a guide for political representatives.

The ‘Change Your Mind’ guide includes five immediate steps that all MPs, MLAs and councillors can take to reduce the stigma associated with mental ill-health in their areas.

Local MLAs Ian McCrea and Sandra Overend were there to lend their support to the initiative.

The steps outlined in the initiative are: Organise an anti-stigma workshop in their local constituency; Meet with people who experience mental ill-health to discover how stigma manifests itself in their area; Take action to look after their own mental health and wellbeing; Secure commitments to stamp out stigma through motions and debates in their parties, the Assembly and councils and provide information about local mental health services and display the ‘Stamp out Stigma’ emblem in constituency offices.

Niamh have offered to deliver anti-stigma workshops to each of the five main political parties and will provide support to all MLAs who organise anti-stigma events in their constituencies.

Speaking at the event, and outlining why it is important that parties and public representatives take up the offer, Niamh Chief Executive Professor Peter McBride said: “Many people in Northern Ireland would not want others to know if they were experiencing a mental health problem. Compared to physical illness, which people are more open about, there remains continued and entrenched stigmatisation of those who have problems with mental health and wellbeing.

“One of the ways we can change people’s minds is by calling for action from the political leaders of all communities. Niamh has now launched the ‘Change Your Mind: Stamp Out Stigma’ guide for all our local representatives including MLAs, MPs, councillors and MEPs,” he said.

“The five steps send an important signal to local communities that individuals who experience mental ill-health must not be stigmatised.

“In addition, Niamh are offering to provide workshops to the main five political parties and to each individual MLA in his or her constituency office on how we can, together, tackle and reduce stigma.”

Joining Peter McBride, Sammy Douglas MLA and Sue Ramsey MLA (who co-sponsored the event) were other speakers including Sue Baker, who is Director of the Time to Change campaign that seeks to reduce stigma across England and Wales.

The event also included artwork on display from Niamh’s Beacon service users across Northern Ireland, which visually demonstrated their experience of mental ill-health and the associated stigma.

These will be on display at the Northern Ireland Assembly for the next two weeks.

The event at Stormont is one of a series of events as part of Niamh’s ‘Change your Mind, Stamp out Stigma’ campaign which was launched in 2011.

The incidence of stigma is growing in Northern Ireland with the ECNI’s ‘Do you mean me?’ study finding increasingly negative attitudes toward people experiencing mental ill-health in communities, workplaces and families. With its campaign Niamh is proactively working to change that by encouraging people across Northern Ireland to change minds and stamp out stigma.

Further details can be found at www.niamhwellbeing.org