Help stop mental health stigma in Scotland

More than 50 per cent of people with a mental health issue in Scotland have experienced stigma or discrimination.

By Julie Currie
Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 7:35 pm
Gail Porter recently joined fellow See Me campaigners to launch new research and Initiative to tackle mental health discrimination in Scotland.
Gail Porter recently joined fellow See Me campaigners to launch new research and Initiative to tackle mental health discrimination in Scotland.

Sadly, it is often those closest to them – friends, family and colleagues – who are the worst offenders.

However, their GP practice is, in fact, the most common place where people have faced stigma.

The results are part of a new survey, released by See Me, the Scottish Government-funded programme to end mental health discrimination.

See Me communications manager Nick Jedrzejewski is hoping Scots will take their own journey to end mental health stigma, inspired by the stories of five people who already have.

Some 2000 people were polled for the survey, carried out by Censuswide for See Me. It is the most extensive study into mental health stigma in Scotland for more than five years.

While there are signs of hearts and minds being changed, with 79 per cent of respondents saying they think public perceptions of mental health problems have improved over the past 10 years, the survey also found areas of major concern.

Nick Jedrzejewski, See Me’s communications manager, was surprised by some of the findings.

He said: “While there are many excellent GPs across the country who help people on the road to recovery, many patients still face discrimination and are treated like a number instead of a person.

“One of our volunteers told us about visiting her GP; she was depressed and had been feeling suicidal.

“But the GP said she was wearing clean clothes and had clean hair, so she couldn’t have depression.

“Having plucked up the courage to say how they feel, teenagers are often told that it’s just a phase and they retreat back into themselves, making it all the harder for them to open up and speak freely about it again.

“People who present at A&E again and again are often not asked the correct questions and feel they are not given the compassionate treatment others receive.

“Many also expressed concern about not being taken seriously, particularly by those closest to them.

“That was one of the most surprising and sad statistics to come out of the survey – how close to home this hits.

“You would think people closest to you would want to support you but often it’s those people who do not want to admit someone close to them has a mental health issue.

“As a result, they don’t ask why someone is acting slightly differently and they treat it like it’s no big deal.

“Workplaces are another area of concern, with people losing their jobs or being passed over for promotion.

“When people go off sick with a mental health issue, they are not treated the same as colleagues with a physical ailment. They are met with a wall of silence instead of flowers and a get well card.”

In Scotland, it is estimated that one in three of us will experience a mental health issue each year.

See Me has shone a light on the issue nationally, perhaps explaining why 79 per cent of poll respondents felt public perceptions of mental health problems had improved since 2010.

And 85 per cent believed it was possible to have a mental health problem and still live a meaningful life.

Worryingly, though, the poll also discovered old attitudes still in evidence.

More than a quarter of respondents (27 per cent) said they would not want a person who has a mental health problem to take care of their child.

And one in 10 (11 per cent) would not be willing to have a relationship with someone with a mental health issue.

The See Me team knows that there is much work yet to be done. So, in a bid to change hearts and minds, it has launched Journey of a Social Movement as a call to action on its website.

Designed to show people in Scotland how they can tackle stigma and discrimination, it features the stories of five Scots who have made a difference.

Nick said: “We hope that people will be inspired by these stories to take action in their own communities.

“Some 55 per cent of Scots said they felt confident that they could challenge mental health stigma and discrimination but we would like to see that figure rise.

“By showing what See Me, its volunteers and partners have been doing over the last five years, we hope it will galvanise other groups and individuals to take action.

“Only by doing so can we truly change hearts and minds when it comes to mental health issues.”

TV presenter Gail Porter, who recently released a documentary about her own mental health journey, is fronting the campaign.

She said: “While I was enjoying a successful career on television, I was experiencing serious mental health illness, but there was still a real stigma around the subject so I had to smile and carry on as normal. Hiding it just made things worse.

“It’s great that mental health is something that is talked about more openly but there’s a long way to go.”

Wendy Halliday, See Me’s interim director, is asking readers to join the campaign.

She said: “We need you to make a difference by joining thousands of people across Scotland in a movement to end mental health stigma and discrimination.”

Start your journey today by visiting

Survey shows See Me still has a way to go

Managed by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and the Mental Health Foundation, See Me is funded by the Scottish Government and Comic Relief.

It began in 2002 as an awareness campaign but in 2015 its remit was extended to change behaviours too.

The poll was conducted to find out how attitudes have changed in those five years.

While there is still work to be done, the survey showed that attitudes are changing:

55 per cent of people in Scotland feel confident to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination

79 per cent of people think public perception of mental health problems have improved over the past 10 years

85 per cent of people in Scotland believe it is possible to have a mental health problem and live a meaningful life.

However, 56 per cent of people with a mental health condition have experienced stigma and discrimination, most commonly from the people closest to them.

And 37 per cent of people who haven’t experienced mental health problems themselves have witnessed stigma or discrimination against others.

The most common areas for this being perpetrated is on social media, in schools, the media and on public transport.

See Me is a national programme to end stigma and discrimination. To find out more, visit