THE Scottish public’s attitudes to mental health has drastically improved over the last 20 years, according to new research.
The findings of a poll revealed today that eight in ten Scots said their understanding of how mental health stigma and discrimination affects people has improved over the last two decades.
The poll – which was posed to 1,000 people – was part of a drive to encourage people to think differently about new year’s resolutions for 2023 and pledge to make time to talk about mental health.
See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma, is urging people to start this with Time to Talk Day on 2 February.
The campaign aims to have people across Scotland make space in their day for a conversation about mental health.
Time to Talk Day is the UK’s biggest mental health conversation, aiming to help break down barriers and reduce the stigma around asking for help.
After two years of online activity, Time to Talk Day will this year run as a mix of online and in-person events and activities.
See Me volunteer Richard Wood has struggled with his mental health since he started having panic attacks at the age of 15.
Richard, 46, said: “I spent the best part of 30 years pretending that my mental health wasn’t as bad as it actually was.
“Mental health just wasn’t spoken about, so I convinced myself that all my problems were either of my own making, or it was down to some sort of a failing on my part.”
It wasn’t until he had a breakdown in 2017 that Richard started to speak more openly about his mental health.
He said: “I’ve had so many conversations about my mental health over the last few years.
“And that’s been with a whole range of people – in medical settings and healthcare, but also with friends, family, colleagues, lots of different people.
“I think every conversation is important, because it all helps break down those barriers and normalise things.”
A standout moment for Richard came when he signed up to run the Edinburgh Marathon in aid of the Mental Health Foundation in 2019.
On his fundraising page, he wrote openly about his mental health – and was blown away by people’s reactions.
He explained: “That was a huge step.
“It was a chance for me to say, this is what’s happened, this is what’s been happening and I now understand that it’s not my fault and I shouldn’t feel ashamed of it.
“And I don’t want other people to be ashamed as well.
“It started various conversations with some of my other friends that have now become regular, ongoing conversations where we check in with each other and have some really open on both sides about how we’re doing.
“That post also prompted a couple of friends to seek some help.”
Richard is now encouraging people across Scotland to get on board with Time to Talk Day and start a conversation about mental health on 2 February.
He said: “You really don’t know what anybody else is going through.
“For me, the idea of anybody actually knowing how I was feeling and what I was going through was petrifying, but I know how much it helped when I finally spoke about it.
“Taking the time to talk and listen is so important.”
See Me director Wendy Halliday said: “As the cost of living crisis impacts on families and individuals across the country, it is no surprise that people’s mental health is taking a hit.
“Time to Talk Day provides an ideal opportunity to open up about some of the worries that will be weighing on people’s minds and how that’s making them feel.
“Talking about mental health reduces stigma, helping to create supportive communities where we can talk openly about mental health and feel empowered to seek help when we need it.
“By talking about mental health, we can bust myths and break down barriers – and ease some of the pressures that many of us are feeling just now.”