Anti-mental health stigma group Time to Change launched part of its latest campaign last week with a range of celebrities encouraging people to talk about mental health issues. Campaigns like this should be welcomed as an increasingly important tool in challenging mental health stigma in young people especially.
Frankie Sandford, singer in pop group The Saturdays, would seem to live a life that many aspire to – famous, travelling the world playing gigs to adoring fans, going to glamorous parties etc – but, as she has revealed, she has also battled depression. It shows once again that depression can affect anyone at any time, no matter how idyllic their life might seem to be.
Thankfully, she had supportive people around her at the time to help her through. Now, she is talking about her experiences and encouraging others to do the same and ‘wear their heart on their sleeve’ in Time to Change’s latest campaign.
Several other celebrities, including former boxer Ricky Hatton, comedian Russell Kane and TV presenter Matt Johnson are also involved and proudly wearing the temporary tattoos that have been produced to go with the campaign.
It is easy to be sniffy about any campaign that involves celebrities – some seem to endorse anything and everything. But, given that we live in an increasingly celebrity-obsessed culture where many are viewed as role models, they do have increasing worth, especially when it comes to publicising issues such as mental health, especially to young people.
The fact remains that it is still very difficult for many people (especially young people – highlighting the pertinence of the campaign) to open up and talk about mental health issues and it is not hard to see why. A recent survey of 1,000 young people by Time to Change found that 90% experienced negative treatment from others because of their mental ill health, with more than 4 in 10 saying this happened every day.
Sadly, the research also found that the negative treatment often came from those closest to the person, with 70% experiencing negative reactions from friends, 57% from parents, and 45% from boyfriends or girlfriends.
This could easily exacerbate the person’s mental ill health, perhaps adding to their stress or depression or discouraging them from seeking help.
But a campaign that shows that famous people, who many young people aspire to be like, also experience mental ill health helps to raise its profile so that people do talk about it. It also helps to normalise it and make people think ‘that’s happened to me’ or ‘that’s how I feel’ and to go and seek help.
To back my point up, the campaign seems to be a hit too: looking on Time to Change’s website today it says the temporary tattoos have sold out in under a week. That’s a lot of people wearing a message about talking about mental health.
As the campaign says, it is time to talk - whoever you are.