[M]embers of the public were brought together in Carlisle City Centre to encourage individuals to open up and speak about their experiences with mental health. The event was organised by Carlisle Eden Mind, Cumbria Police, People First Independent Advocacy, and the World Health Innovation Summit, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day.
The Mayor of Carlisle, Trish Vasey, came along with Cumbria County Council representatives to commit their support to employees with mental health problems, by signing a Time to Change pledge.
Darren Bee, the Time to Change Community and Equalities Coordinator of the North West, shared his stories to encourage others to speak about their experiences with mental health. Established ten years ago, Time to Change is an anti-stigma campaign that aims to put an end to mental health discrimination by working across England with employers, Champions, schools, and communities. The Time to Change Cumbria Hub and their campaigners have come together with other organisations to have conversations with the public. The campaigners are known as champions, Darren explains. “A champion is someone with a lived experience of mental health problems, who campaigns within their daily life through social contact, exchanging conversations with others who don’t have that experience”.
Many people shy away from talking about their mental health problems in fear of social disapproval. But, in fact a conversation is one of the first steps of breaking through the stigma behind mental health, as it motivates individuals to open up and share their experiences with each other.
Caroline Robinson, the Community Engagement and Fundraising Officer for Carlisle Eden Mind, illustrated the negative connotations that surround mental health. Stigma isn’t the fault of any individual, “it’s been passed down through society, through media, and passed down through generations”. Consequently, people don’t talk about feelings or emotions, which only causes problems to escalate.
Mental health is now being addressed more in the media, and was even highlighted in conversation by Their Royal Highnesses earlier in the year for their Heads Together campaign. As discussed by Debra, Sarah, and Amy from Carlisle Eden Mind, the advent of the Royal Princes speaking up is thought to have influenced more people, especially men, to open up and talk about their experiences with mental health.
There are no textbook diagrams to depict mental illness. Since they are usually unique to the individual, mental illnesses are often misinterpreted, and most go unrecognised until problems manifest as physical symptoms. The issue is that for many people, mental health is overlooked due to negative social concepts. Masculine cultures have cultivated many men to suppress their feelings and emotions. Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any point in their lives, on any day of the year.
Don’t suffer in silence. Speak up and speak out, so that together, we can help to remove the taboo.