Health Minister Simon Hamilton is championing the launch of Northern Ireland’s newest mental health anti-stigma and anti-discrimination campaign.
The Change Your Mind, campaign supported by Comic Relief, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Niamh (The Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health) is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
The campaign brings together the work of the PHA and Niamh to reduce levels of stigma, discrimination, and negative attitudes towards people who experience mental ill-health. It also builds on the PHA’s campaigns to reduce barriers and encourage help-seeking behaviours, and Comic Relief's commitment to supporting mental wellbeing and breaking down the associated stigma and discrimination.
Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: "Mental health is an issue for everyone and we all need to work at protecting our mental health. The issue is so common, yet unfortunately the stigma associated with mental ill-health still persists, and it is a serious barrier to help-seeking particularly for men. It prevents people from taking that first step to access support before the situation deteriorates to the point that crisis intervention becomes necessary.
“I therefore welcome this campaign and I hope that it encourages everyone to treat mental health in the same way as physical health. Taking that first step to seek help must be seen by all as a sign of strength rather than some misguided admission of weakness."
Peter Mc Bride, CEO at Niamh, added: “We in Niamh have long been committed to changing negative attitudes and behaviour towards those with experience of mental illness. Since running our own anti-stigma campaign in 2011 we have been working to deliver this regional campaign and are delighted that Comic Relief and the PHA are the key partners. This grassroots campaign will reach into schools, workplaces and wider society. My call to action today is for people to join us as champions and help make a difference in your own community."
In recent years, the PHA has run a number of successful, high-profile media campaigns on mental health such as ‘The Boxer’, ‘The Mask’ and ‘The Fog’. These have tackled the issue of stigma and encouraged people who may have mental health problems to seek support. As a result, people are looking at mental health in a more positive way, providing a strong foundation for the Change Your Mind programme to build upon.
Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA, explained why this work is so important: "This campaign will build on the positive work across the statutory and the voluntary and community sectors to reduce the levels of stigma, discrimination and negative attitudes towards people who experience mental ill-health.
“We want people to feel more confident in talking about mental health and to remove the myths around this issue so that they will be encouraged to reach out for help.
“We hope this campaign will make a real difference to the lives of people in our community who currently experience mental ill-health.”
Gilly Green of Head of UK Grants at Comic Relief added: “we are proud to partner PHA and Niamh to reduce stigma in mental ill-health. We have been supporting similar initiatives in Scotland, Wales and England. Mental ill-health can affect anyone and so reducing stigma is the first step in enabling people to access support and encourage recovery to live a full life."
For further information on the campaign and to get involved as a local champion for mental wellbeing, please visit www.changeyourmindni.org
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