Mental health problems are common. They affect thousands of people in the UK, and their friends, families, work colleagues, and society in general.
- In Leeds around 106,000 people experience a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression (Leeds in Mind, 2017).
- Local hospital admissions for self-harm have been increasing for young women over the last 5 years (Young Women’s Mental Health Outcome Based Accountability Report, 2020).
- In Leeds, men are five times as likely to take their own life as women (Leeds Suicide Audit, 2019).
- Loneliness and social isolation are experienced across all ages. YouGOv research for the charity Age UK in 2017 found that nearly half of all adults over 55 had experienced depression and anxiety.
Mental ill-health has a significant impact, not only on individuals, families and communities, but also on the economy. It is estimated that mental ill-health costs over £500 million every year in Leeds through working days lost and the effects on the health and social care system (Leeds in Mind, 2017).
Most people who experience mental health problems recover fully, or are able to live with and manage them, especially if they get help early on.
But even though so many people are affected, there is a strong social stigma attached to mental ill health, and people with mental health problems can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.
Whilst stigma severely affects and can even be the cause of people ending their own lives, it is also bad for society as a whole. If we want a mentally healthy Leeds, we need to act together to make that a reality.
Leeds City Council’s Public Health Team have commissioned Touchstone to bring together a range of organisations and people to tackle the blight of stigma and to work across the city to challenge and – hopefully one day – eradicate stigma from our lives entirely. We are called Anti Stigma Leeds and our current members include:
- Time 2 Change Anti Stigma Champions and Volunteers
- Leeds City Council
- Yorkshire MESMAC
- Space 2
- Age UK Leeds
- Voluntary Action Leeds – BAME Hub
- Mindful Employer Leeds
- Leeds Mind
- The Marketplace Leeds
- Forum Central
We have made a great start to challenging stigma in Leeds with many of our successes being spearheaded by our Anti-Stigma Champions and Volunteers. Some of the highlights include:
- Having a diverse range of local dedicated Anti Stigma Champions involved in anti-stigma activity by using their voice and communicating their own unique lived experiences of mental health. Here is an example of their powerful impact https://www.instagram.com/tv/CB_N7w-nHhp/?igshid=sh8nt1u2owcj
- There is an assigned co-ordinator who oversees, supports and works alongside the anti-stigma Champions and other volunteers
- There’s been great uptake in promoting key messages. For example, our local Champions have been interviewed by the Yorkshire Evening Post, and have completed interviews at multiple radio stations- Radio Leeds, Radio Aire, and People’s FM.
- Challenging stigma where it arises. For example, a letter was sent by the Champions to an Escape Game company in Leeds, which challenged the problematic tropes the games used and opened up a local dialogue about stigma.
- Local anti-stigma training has been developed and is co-delivered by our Champions.
- Multiple workshops and activities have already been delivered across the city. We have initiated hundreds of conversations with community members when conducting community stalls, workplaces, and events for key campaign dates- including World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week.
- Co-production and collaboration between partners – a key strength to ensure lived experience is central to driving forward anti-stigma work in the city.
- Securing funding through the Leeds Time to Change Hub and then ensuring the sustainability, investment and continuing development of this work through Mentally Healthy Leeds.
Our mission is to stop stigma in its tracks; will you help us? Our membership is open to anyone who would like to get involved with finding new ways to work positively as a whole system to identify, challenge, and end stigma in Leeds.
Throughout the rest of this year we will be focusing on 2 key messages to start the conversation with the citizens of Leeds and organisations working in the city. These messages will be promoted through social media and we hope you will also use them to signal your commitment to ending stigma in Leeds.
The messages are:
#It’sOkNotToBeOK and Mental Health is Everyone’s Business: Don’t Let Stigma Win.
Look out for these messages, share them and help us all to make them a reality.