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See Me urges people to start discussion about mental health in a pandemic on Time to Talk Day


By Chris Saunderson

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PEOPLE in Moray and Aberdeenshire are being called to tackle the stigma and discrimination around mental health in 2021, with increasing numbers struggling and worried about speaking out due to the Covid-19 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.

See Me Time To Talk Day.
See Me Time To Talk Day.

The programme spoke to 40 of their volunteers last year, finding over half (54 per cent) said they were worried about sharing their difficulties with others because everyone was going through tough times.

To change this, See Me is encouraging community groups, workplaces, schools, universities and health and social care providers to get involved in Time to Talk Day, on February 4.

This 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. With lockdown keeping us apart, people are being encouraged to send Time to Talk postcards as a small way to start a conversation.

See Me volunteer spokesman Tommy Kelly 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.”

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.

In parallel, 41 per cent said the stigma they experienced from others had decreased. This compared to 28 per cent who said it had increased, most commonly from family members, online, from health care professionals and in their employment.

Research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists found 43 per cent 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.”

Resources and action packs for Time to Talk Day can be downloaded right now at the See Me website: www.seemescotland.org/movement-for-change/campaigns/time-to-talk/time-to-talk-day-2021/. This includes inspiration for activities, printable materials, ways to share about the day, signposts to help, and more.


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