By Conor Forrest
SPEAKING from personal experience, it can take a long time to recognise that you have problems with your mental health and perhaps longer still to try and do something about it. The often crushing stigma that surrounds this topic can’t be underestimated – I can’t speak for others, but for me it seemed easier to try and bury or ignore the issues rather than take steps to seek help.
So it’s great to see initiatives like See Change’s annual Green Ribbon campaign; Green Ribbon Month is usually held in May but this year is taking place in October. See Change is Ireland’s national mental health stigma reduction partnership. Funded by the HSE National Office of Suicide Prevention, it’s made up of over 100 Irish organisations and 60 ambassadors who work together to open minds about mental health problems and end mental health stigma and discrimination.
Virtual events are running throughout the month with an array of different speakers focusing on the workplace, the voices of lived experience, and partners of See Change, on the topics of discrimination, behaviour and societal change. You can find out more about these events on seechange.ie and social media.
Coinciding with the recent launch of See Change and Mental Health Ireland’s Living with Covid-19 Return to Work Guide, this year’s Green Ribbon campaign focuses on the importance of sharing how you really feel. See Change believes that Ireland is in need of conversations about mental health now more than ever, and the Green Ribbon has been a symbol of hope to many in helping start those conversations.
“Being able to use my experience through See Change to further the conversation about mental ill health is so important to me,” said Sinead Keating, See Change ambassador from Maynooth. “Stigma and mental health pejoratives are ingrained in our day to day lives. Even though we’re getting better at how we speak of and how well we understand mental ill health we still have a way to go. Green Ribbon Month is another opportunity to move forward.”
Rick Rossiter, a See Change ambassador from Celbridge, added that “too often people with a mental health disorder and more often the general population sees this person as their disorder. As in, they are bipolar, instead of, they have bipolar. We need a change in perception and information on mental health issues”.
Speaking of this year’s Green Ribbon, See Change co-ordinator Barbara Brennan said that “while many people don’t stop to consider stigma or its impact, for some it has been a barrier to leading a regular life; one without prejudice, discrimination and fear. Living with an illness is difficult enough, there is no need to add the weight of stigma to someone who is already struggling.
“Most people feed stigma, unknowingly, by living in fear of how to approach a mental health conversation, and of saying ‘the wrong thing’. Helping people understand that we all have ups and downs, and that by having more open conversations we can end mental health stigma and the burden it places on those who are the most vulnerable in our society, is at the heart of the Green Ribbon campaign.”
There’s still time to order Green Ribbons by emailing [email protected] with your full name, delivery address (including Eircode), contact number, email address and ribbon quantity, or by placing an order directly on seechange.ie. Alternatively, you can pick up a Green Ribbon during the campaign at your nearest Boots, AIB or Eir store.
See Change has also created a downloadable supporters pack which features a range of resources including posters, ribbon photo props, and email and social media banners – it’s available at seechange.ie/download-our-supporters-pack-2020.