News from the Network: North Glasgow HIIC students challenge mental health stigma

Earlier this week a colleague and I visited North Glasgow Healthy Living Centre to hear a presentation from some students who had taken place in a Health Issues in the Community (HIIC) course. This was run as part of the Axis Health Hubs – Cross Hub course/North Glasgow Healthy Living Community. 

As part of HIIC students are tasked with delivering a presentation as part of the course and students here decided to focus on mental health and the stigma and discrimination that people who live with these conditions face each day.

As the presentation was introduced, we were asked to write down as many negative words we could think around mental health on to some sticky notes. These were words like 'nutter', 'psycho' and 'headcase' and we were then asked to physically place these post its onto one of the students who volunteered to be literally labelled with these offensive and derogatory words. It was a very effective way to highlight the real effect these words can have on somebody and was no small task to have them placed on you.

We were then given a very interesting and thoughtful tour of the history of mental health and discrimination, with a very local feel as it focused on the Gartlock Hospital, opened in 1896 in Glasgow. From the Egyptian times to up until the present day, the history of stigma around mental health was examined, giving a useful context to the issues faced by people with mental health conditions throughout history.

Following this the students showed a video from Brighton and Hove LINk, detailing some personal stories of people who had mental health conditions and the response they often received from friends, family members as well as agencies such as the police.

The presentation finished by asking what could be done to change stigma, with a focus on each of us taking personal responsibility for the way that we act and the words that we use that might negatively impact people who suffer from mental health conditions. It was an important reminder that while you might not being hurtful on purpose your personal behaviour can have a big impact on other people.

Finally, with the presentation over we were asked to once again go up to the student was now covered in post it notes and to remove the harmful labels that had been placed on her at the start. Again, a keen reminder of the power of stigma around mental health - and our ability to challenge it.

To learn more about HIIC, please click here.

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