Lanark volunteer encourages people to talk about mental health

Heather McCartney.
Heather McCartney.

Mental health is part of everyone’s life, and we all need to talk about it, starting today, World Mental Health Day.

See Me, the national programme to end mental health discrimination, has called on communities, workplaces, schools and care providers in Lanarkshire to lead the way in showing that we all have mental health and should all talk about it.

It has made the call around this year’s World Mental Health Day (Tuesday October 10), encouraging people to speak more openly about mental health.

Heather McCartney, from Lanark, who volunteers with See Me, found it difficult to open when she first struggled with her mental health.

She said: “When I first got help with my mental health problems I found it really difficult to open up to friends and family.

"I had hidden my feelings for so long, hidden the scars from my self harm. It was such a relief to be able to speak to my family and friends, and feel like it wasn't just me battling my thoughts any more.

“Since then I have been very open about how I am feeling, and how mental illness has affected my life. It is so important to keep talking, some people won't feel comfortable hearing about mental health.

"We need to have these conversations to put mental and physical health are given the same importance.

“I have experienced stigma, especially when I was studying, at one of Scotland’s more prestigious universities.

"I had such bad anxiety that I struggled to attend lectures and tutorials. I felt that when I met with lecturers they weren't sympathetic to my health issues; in their eyes I wasn't cut out for the rigours of further education.

“I have since proved them wrong, as I am now in 4th year at a different university, studying a subject that I love.”

To make a real change See Me is also calling for people to join it in a movement to end mental health discrimination. This could involve taking action, ranging from directly challenging someone they see discriminating, to supporting someone who is struggling due to a mental health problem.

Calum Irving, See Me director, said: “We all have mental health and it impacts on every aspect of our lives, including where we live, learn, work and receive care, but when we struggle with our mental health we often face stigma and discrimination.

“However we each have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of our families, friends and colleagues when they are affected by mental health problems.

“This World Mental Health Day we want people to join a social movement to end mental health stigma by taking action and pledging your support.”

Maureen Watt, the Scottish Government Minister for Mental Health, echoed the call, saying: “For all of us, positive attitudes to mental health can have a really helpful impact on the people around us.

“See Me has been vital in efforts over the last several years to promote improved attitudes to mental health and mental illness and, as we have said in our Mental Health Strategy, we will ensure its work continues and develops.”

Find out more and join the movement at https://www.seemescotland.org/our-movement-for-change/join-the-movement/.