Reducing the Stigma: GUCFS and SAMH

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The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), is Scotland’s leading mental health charity. Here at Glasgow University, our focus has been channelled in this direction due to the Glasgow University Charity Fashion Show (GUCFS) choosing SAMH as its chosen recipient of its donations from the upcoming show in February 2017. GUCFS picked SAMH as its chosen charity for many reasons, but the predominant reason being that students, in a constant environment of high pressure, are one of the highest percentage of those experiencing mental health issues, with a staggering one in four students struggling with mental ill-health. With students striving to find the balance between achieving the sought-after grades for their classes, keeping on top of a typical university social life, as well as giving themselves enough time for rest and relaxation, anxiety and stress is undoubtedly a likely result. SAMH’s aim is to relieve the stigma attached to mental health, and begin to shift the attitude of people to start treating it like they would any physical illness: with compassion and care. When G-You asked why GUCFS chose SAMH as their chosen charity, GUCFS President Autumn told us: “we believe that mental health is an incredibly important issue that is sorely overlooked. Their amazingly positive and supportive outlook was irresistible and their innovative fundraising campaigns looked like great fun to take part in and support!” By supporting the charity so eagerly, it exudes the sentiment that it is OK to talk about mental health whilst promoting a charity that dedicates their existence to challenging cultural conceptions about mental health issues.

As a charity, SAMH are devoted to supporting you through the whole process – from helping in contacting your GP, to offering an abundance of help and advice on coping mechanisms that can be of aid with regards to school, university or work. They also address the fact that mental health can affect every aspect of peoples’ lives. It impacts friendships, relationships, motivation to work and just general quality of life. Autumn enthuses about the fact that, “SAMH’s work isn’t solely focused on helping those that are experiencing mental ill-health; they also raise awareness for the fact that we must all look after our mental well-being and they offer support and advice to those experiencing mental ill-health in very different forms.” By addressing this and providing a platform to discuss these issues – at a personal level, or a general level – they are allowing individuals to understand that they are far from alone. Not only this, but what they are feeling is a direct result of their mental ill-health. For those experiencing a mental health issue, knowing that a support network such as this exists can be such a comfort and can make such an incredible difference to peoples’ lives.

It is important to note that it is not just those who experience mental ill-health who are subject to the attention of SAMH: those who support someone who suffers can benefit from their service just as much. It is a vital part of helping anybody that you seek the information relevant to help their recovery, and SAMH is the place you can do this. They offer a widely developed series of information resources which can be found online at their website to assist in the role of either helping someone back on their feet, or just being a helping hand day to day.

SAMH have found partners in associations such as See Me and Respect Me who campaign together to shift the topic of mental health from ‘taboo’ to ‘let’s talk’. Discrimination of those with mental health is shockingly high, with 9 in 10 of sufferers getting discriminated against during employment, education or healthcare. One of their most attention-grabbing campaigns is their 5 Ways campaign. According to GUCFS, “the purpose of the 5 Ways are to encourage people to look after their mental well-being and make time for themselves in the midst of such busy lives. We feel like this is particularly relevant to students who often try to juggle academic work and full on social lives.” Through the existence of these campaigns, SAMH believe that it will be people like us, the general public one by one, who will end this stigma and discrimination. This enables us to reach a level of equality in society where no one should be made to feel ashamed of any illness they suffer from, mental or physical, each treated with the same dignity, humility and respect.

For anyone suffering with mental health issues, or for anyone who is helping a loved one through mental health issues, the key factor in diagnosis and recovery is talking. Talking with a loved one about the way you are feeling goes above and beyond what you can imagine with regards to your mental health. By voicing the way that you feel and humanising what is going on in your brain, you are realising that it is something that is within you that needs nurtured and cared for to be made better, but it is not YOU. Only by acknowledging that you may be experiencing a mental health issue can you begin to find the right help that is available for you. For GUCFS, they find it incredibly difficult to grasp how little funding is put into mental health associations; Autumn tells us, “in my opinion our most important job as a committee this year is to raise awareness for mental ill-health and the fact that it effects everyone and the important need for more funding to be dedicated to mental health organisations.” This lack of funding is what is believed to fuel the stigma attached to mental illness and this needs to be completely banished to allow for a healthier and happier society.

To find out more about SAMH please visit: http://www.samh.org.uk

 GUCFS: http://www.facebook.com/GUCharityFashionShow

Katie MacLeod

 

 

 

 

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