World mental health day

14591729_674301159412566_6103964126228937109_n.jpgI am enormously proud that Brighton & Hove Council, CCG and NHS have played such a key role in the launch of the new anti-stigma campaign aimed at children and young people - #IAmWhole.

Every year, around 1 in 10 children and young people experience mental health problems in the UK. That’s 3 children and young people in every school or college classroom. Children are under greater pressure than ever before, with exam stress, social media, bullying, family breakdown and financial problems are sighted as the main triggers. Here in Brighton & Hove, we have one of the highest hospital admission rates for self-harm injuries among under 18s in the country.

On the surface, it seems that young people are far more confident and open in discussing mental health then when I was growing up. But a recent report by the YMCA shows attitudes haven’t changed quickly enough.

The YMCA shows that 38% of young people surveyed had experienced some form of mental health stigma. Sadly 54% of those who felt stigmatised did so because of negative comments from their friends. This level of stigma can be incredibly isolating and in many cases stop children & young people seeking the help and support they need.

Since my diagnosis three years ago with Cyclothymia (a mild form of Bipolar Disorder) and anxiety, I have found speaking about my illness a very important part of my recovery. After years of struggling in silence, I finally got the professional help I needed and was able to ask for support from friends and colleagues, rather than just hiding away.

While the government may talk about a “commitment to improving mental health services”, these are just empty words. Over the last parliament, there was a £600m shortfall in mental health funding in the NHS. Challenging mental health stigma is only the first step in our battle to achieve the much promised “parity of esteem”. Parity of funding – for mental health beds, counselling, CAMHs and research would be a very good place to start.

If you want to get involved in #IAmWhole …
1. Challenge harmful language used to describe mental health difficulties so that young people can ask for help without fear of negative labels.
2. Ask for support from friends, parents, teachers, GPs or youth workers
3. Show support by joining the #IAMWHOLE movement on social media and posting ‘circle on hand’ selfies in support of the anti-stigma message
4. Find and get help by visiting www.findgetgive.com - a mental health services directory for young people created by YMCA’s Right Here project in partnership with other local groups in Brighton & Hove. 

You can see the video here

A big thank you to Cllr Dan Yates, Cllr Pete West (Mayor of Brighton & Hove), everyone at BHCC and the CCG, and East Sussex Fire and Rescue for their support.

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