The author discusses how mental health campaigns can help reduce the stigma of mental health illness, but suggests that campaigns must take the next steps after building awareness online.
• The author talks about some bright spots in addressing stigma in the mental health sector. For instance, the Women’s Mental Health Network looks to its users to identify the worst problems regarding service provision and then run campaigns to address these issues.
• Read more about the importance of investing in mental health.
Having grown up with the internet and therefore being a digital native, it’s been particularly great to see how those with mental health conditions have used the internet to create communities that support each other, from the Sad Girls Club to hashtags like #mentalhealthhour.
But in seeing this conversation open up it’s easy to generalise and say that society as a whole is dealing with mental health much better. However, seeing this increased honesty online and use of mental health hashtags just further confirms that the onus is still on those who experience mental health issues to break the stigma themselves.
An awareness campaign may use hashtags to get people to ask for help, but what’s next? If somebody is to open up about the mental distress they suffer to only be met with no support services or long waiting lists, does it really help?
Using hashtags won’t cover up the fact that the current system isn’t working. That there is not enough investments, long waiting lists and people having to travel miles for beds, which has also left us in the dangerous situation where people have to ‘prove’ how bad their mental health is to receive treatment.
We also need greater accountability in how the mental health budget is spent, which would help to open up the dialogue between those who use mental health services and policy makers. It is service users who should be at the forefront of this conversation on mental health, and not constrained to only being able to have their say through using a hashtag about mental health awareness.