It helps to talk about mental health

20th September 2018

“I think it helps to talk about mental health – I know it would have helped me”.

Those were the words of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson this week, as she spoke about her experience of depression as a student. It’s a simple sentiment, but not one we have previously heard from a serving political leader in this country.

Both SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and See Me, the anti-stigma and discrimination programme for Scotland,  continually encourage this kind of open debate about mental health – but we know it isn’t easy. As a nation, we’ve made huge strides in recent years, but there’s still stigma about mental health problems, so it’s a big step for a leader to open up in this way.

We know that people find value in public figures sharing their mental health experiences. In a recent survey of SAMH supporters, over two thirds of people said it was helpful when public figures speak  about their own experiences of mental health. 

In the last few years, we’ve seen members of the Royal family, as well as prominent entertainers, politicians and business leaders, speak honestly about their mental health. It’s really encouraging, and we hope that it will continue. It’s helpful that more people are now speaking out about their mental health experiences, but we also need to make it easier for people to ask for and receive help at the time they  need it.

See Me’s Feels FM campaign recently found that only 26% of young people would tell someone if they were finding it difficult to cope.  If people can ask for help early enough and get a compassionate, judgment free response  then we can prevent some mental health problems arising.

And we shouldn’t assume, just because more people are talking about mental health in general, that it’s easy an easy thing to do. It’s a step into the unknown, with no certainty about how people will react. And it’s irrevocable – once the information is out there, you can’t take it back.  Sadly we hear of many stories of discrimination in school, work and health services so it’s not surprising that is still difficult to do.

That’s why See Me and SAMH want to thank everyone who speaks about their mental health. We especially want to thank everyone who volunteers across all of our work to share their own experiences of mental health problems, show that recovery is real and that change is possible . Every day, across Scotland, our volunteers speak to companies, radio stations and communities they’ve never been to before, in front of people they’ve never met, and talk honestly about the most difficult time in their lives. Every day, across Scotland, our volunteers blog, tweet, Instagram and talk about their distress, their pain and their fear – and, just as importantly, about their hope, support and recovery.

It’s not easy for anyone to talk about mental health – but every person who does it makes it a little bit easier for the next person. So thank you to every single person who feels able to be open about their experiences. Together, we are making change.