Mental health service users
Ursula Joy is a member of Verita’s Mental Health Advisory Group and represents mental health services users needs.
As a member of Verita’s mental health advisory group, a group representing the voice of mental health services users, I feel well positioned to write about stigma within mental health.
For me stigma within mental health relates to being judged. Stigma has meant that I am sometimes hesitant to tell people, even those close to me, about my mental health problems through fear of their response. Experiencing stigma can often lead to a downward spiral and therefore efforts to reduce stigma need to be made.
One answer to the question at the beginning of this post is a nothing short of brilliant, government-backed programme for young people: the National Citizen Service (NCS). Since 2009 the NCS, a voluntary personal and social development programme, has encouraged 15-17 year olds across the UK to broaden their horizons by learning new skills and meeting new people. Through visiting outdoor-activity centres in rural parts of the UK, undertaking volunteering placements and starting up social action projects that raise awareness of particular community issues, the programme brings together young people from different backgrounds and develops their awareness and responsibility.
I came across a youth project that delivers the NCS in Somerset. They have a great story about a young girl with a mental health illness who serves as a testimony that the programme can specifically encourage those with mental health illnesses to help break down stigma at a community level. The social action project that the young girl devised was aimed at tackling prejudices against mental health disorders. Although the project was originally planned to be short-term, it has continued on.
I look forward to meeting again with rest of Verita’s mental health advisory group this Autumn to discuss bringing the voice of mental health service users into investigations and reviews.