Podcast Episode: See Me
Category: Mental health
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
NJ - Nick Jedrzejewski
MG - Maeve Grindall
MM I went into the See Me office, and See Me is a mental health charity, and on this podcast I interviewed the Communications Manager, Nick Jedrzejewski, and also I interviewed Maeve Grindall. Now Maeve Grindall is part of the Social Movement team at See Me Scotland. So tell me, what does your job involve?
NJ My job involves promoting See Me, promoting the message that we have of tackling stigma and discrimination and helping people to live fulfilled lives, and doing that in a variety of different mediums. So primarily it would be working with the media, so putting out there what we’re doing. That could be some of our campaigns like some of our recent campaigns we worked on, one was “Time to Talk” day, another one was “Pass the Badge”, and working with either newspapers, radio, TV, to get the message out there. At the moment the message that we’re trying to get out there is that we all have mental health, and that it’s okay not to be okay. Any of us can go through a time when we’re struggling. Since 2002 when See Me started it’s been a huge, huge focus working with the media and trying to tackle stigma. Initially it was really trying to tackle the stigma that was in the media, and it goes that long back. A lot of the stories you saw on mental health were very stigmatising and very discriminatory and were doing quite a lot of harm, and the idea of See Me’s media output was really to try and replace some of those stories with more positive realistic ones basically. That’s developed a lot over time and There’s been not as much of a need for that. it’s still really important to have positive stories out there and realistic stories, but now certainly in the four years that I’ve been at See Me I’ve seen a big - even in that time - a shift. We used to quite often write to newspapers, radio stations or whoever, if they said something or carried some stigmatising coverage, and we’d point out to them why it wasn’t very good, and things like we worked with the National Union of Journalists to create the guidelines on media reporting, but that is getting a lot better. it’s changing and a lot more media outlets seem to be more, they cover mental health a lot more. There’s a lot of stories in there and a lot that are more recent, but there are still issues. There’s still, particularly if you see schizophrenia or something like that, it’s more often than not you see it in terms of something to do with a crime, whereas we try and get stories in there that are showing that that is not the case for the vast majority of people, and trying to give more balance to that, but it is good to see that they’re changing, and a lot of reporters as well, we get contacted by a lot of reporters who’ve had personal experience as well and they care about it and they’re interested and they want to try and help make a difference now, passionate about it, plus maybe a lot of newspapers know that it’s, I mean it’s probably that There’s the stat of one in four people experience mental health problems in a lifetime that goes about a lot, it’s probably, I mean it’s totally a case that more people are affected than that. it’s higher and then There’s even more who are friends and family members, and if you are the owner of a newspaper or a radio station, TV channel, that is a huge percentage of people that consume your media that read it or listen to it, so it doesn’t really make any sense to be stigmatising about them because it makes up such a huge amount of your audience. I think maybe some media companies are catching onto that now.
MM You mentioned about the campaigns early on, just expand on the campaigns and what’s involved and why are you doing these kind of, the campaigns?
NJ We have kind of three big campaigns and then a couple of other digital campaigns as well, and the main reason that we really campaign is to bring national awareness to the work that we’re doing and the particular programs of work. So over the last few years we’ve released a few campaigns which are still active now. The first one was the ‘People Like YOU’ campaign, and that was all about creating a movement of people and supporting the social movement and encouraging everyone to take some action, to do something to change the way you behave, because we’re all about changing people’s behaviours, and that came in two parts. The first one which was encouraging people to take action, the second part which was looking at if the thing you want to do is to have a conversation about it, for a lot of people That’s really difficult and they’ve never spoken about it before, so we created some videos which showed how you can maybe go about that. So from the point of view of a young person speaking to their parents if they’re struggling, or then from the parents’ point of view when they see that their son or daughter is going through a tough time, also between employee and employer, and then just a general conversation as view to encourage people to actually do that. The second one we brought out after that was our ‘Power of Okay’ campaign, and that was to really support our workplace program which is called ‘See Me in Work’, and the workplace program is very targeted to individual employers to working with them to change their policies, change their practice, change their culture, but we wanted to create a high level campaign which all potential employers, employees, managers, workers in the country could see, with the message being that if you see someone struggling, that they’re going through a tough time, asking them, ‘Are you okay?’, showing you care, showing that you’ll be there, that you’ll listen, can make a huge, huge difference. Again, we did that in two parts. The first part from the point of view of an employee who was struggling, going through a tough time, the second part from the manager who could see that one of their staff members was struggling but was worried about bringing it up because they thought they might make it worse or they didn’t know what to say, and showing them that simple conversations can make a difference, and then with that then encouraging people who see that to then get involved with ‘See Me in Work’ and to take more action to go further for that real behaviour change elements and not just raising awareness and knowing. Following that we had our ‘it’s Okay’ campaign which was a children and young people’s campaign, and it was a similar message to ‘Power of Okay’, apart from it was looking more at the young person themselves and saying it’s okay not to be okay. That was the big message of the campaign. Almost going that step back to before you start to struggle when you’re first thinking there might be something, if you’re worried but you don’t know what to say, who to speak to, how to ask, how to talk about it. don’t just keep it to yourself, speak to someone, tell them how you’re feeling and if the first person’s not the right person, to carry that on again until you find someone, because you should never have to feel like you’re struggling, you have to keep that to yourself. So with that, That’s then launched alongside our ‘what’s On Your Mind?’ schools pack, and that was again for really targeted work in specific schools where we have our young Champions that can go in, teach them things like Scottish Mental Health First Aid, There’s whole loads of lesson plans and stuff in there. So it was similar, we had the high level campaign and the targeted work for schools to really try and help that behaviour change. Then our other campaigns we’ve got, we’ve had two digital campaigns. One called “My Unfiltered Life”, which we really focussed on Instagram specifically, which is an area where I don’t know if you’ve used Instagram but it’s by and large it is people showing off, which is cool. it’s good. it’s good to show the things that make you happy in life, and I’ve got an Instagram page, I do the same thing. I put up pictures which I think make me look cool - which is a stretch, it’s hard to make me look cool - but I try it anyway, but if you are on social media - and it’s similar on Facebook and other platforms too - but all you see is other people who seem to have the amazing life, who seem to be doing like fun things all the time and then you’re struggling and you’re maybe struggling with your mental health and you see that and think why am I the only one like this? Why is everyone else having fun and I’m not? And we want to show that that is not really the case, That’s not real life, That’s just a small snapshot of one person’s day, and then There’s loads of other things that go on and not everyone’s life is amazing and that if you’re going through something rubbish that it’s okay to speak about that too. You can put that out and you’re not alone in struggling with your mental health and feeling rubbish and having crap day after crap day, that that happens to everyone, and some people it could be worse than others. Some people go through sustained periods where they’re really low, they’re really struggling, but that can happen too and That’s nothing that you should be ashamed about, because we want to encourage people to kind of take the filter off - hence the name - and share that, and that was great because that encourages people to share but then other people to support them, and we had thousands of people just talking to each other and just creating all these conversations and just by essentially using a hashtag and some encouragement we get to the place to do that, and then our most recent one kind of followed similar lines to that, was called “Pass the Badge”, and that started as an activity through one of our Community Champions who became really isolated when he had a breakdown and he was experiencing depression who wanted other people to not have that. So he wanted to encourage conversations by getting people to wear a See Me badge for a day, share some messages and then pass it on to someone else to wear for the next twenty-four hours and again and again, so we then took that into a kind of digital arena and encouraged people to share a picture and a story that really meant something to them around mental health and put a digital badge on it. We created a website, passthebadge.co.uk, where people could go on, they could upload their picture, it puts the badge on, they could put their story and then share it to any social media platform they like. Again we had, I think we had about one thousand six hundred different people doing that and sharing their story and putting the badge on, and we ended up we managed to reach about five million people with that, and again just showing that you’re not alone, that we all have mental health and that it’s okay if you’re struggling, and then yeah, so That’s kind of an overview of the main campaigns we have and what we really try to achieve from them. We have others that we’ve worked in that link in with the activities, like ‘Walk a Mile’, which in it we worked with a mental health activist called Chris McCullough Young to create that. He’d walked all the way around the edge of Scotland with no money just relying on people’s hospitality and kindness when he told them his story about having borderline personality disorder, and then we worked with him to then take that into a sort of a concept of where we could bring people together to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, talk about mental health and relate to someone different. We tried to refocus on healthcare as well with people who worked in services, people who use services, because there can quite often be barriers or friction there because they’re only seeing each other at times of crisis quite often, and to try and remove that and put in a neutral setting where people could see each other as the people they really are to hopefully then change people’s minds about mental health and how people are if they’ve struggled with their mental health.
MM Tell us more about your, the team that you work in.
MG So I work in the Social Movement team, and See Me works across kind of four program teams working in four different settings. So That’s workplace, education and young people, health and social care, and then everything else falls within the Social Movement team. So it’s probably best described as the communities team in that sense, but the Social Movement itself is something really that encompasses all of those different strands within See Me, and at the heart of the Social Movement is our lived experience volunteers. So my job is very much to support our volunteers throughout their time working with See Me. So from recruitment and delivering and developing training to ongoing support. We have really four different volunteer roles in See Me - media volunteers, social media volunteers, speaker volunteers and Community Champions. So the media volunteers and speakers are trained to speak about their own lived experience. Media volunteers as the name suggests do that to the media and speaker volunteers will go to different events. Quite often external organisations will invite us to provide a lived experience voice or ask us if we can point them in the direction of somebody with lived experience who can come and do an input at their event. That could be a conference or a workshop or a meeting, and then our Community Champions are community activists working within the local communities. That could be a geographical community or it could be a community of interest, so a group that they’re a part of or a group that they belong to that is something that they’re interested in and passionate about, and Community Champions will develop projects that will tackle stigma and discrimination within their communities.
MM So what kind of events have you got coming up this year?
MG So one of our Community Champions, Bridget Dixon, she’s based in the borders in Peebles. Now it’ll probably already have happened by the time anybody hears this, but she’ll be running a “Walk a Mile” this month - at the end of this week in fact - but she runs in addition to kind of annual “Walk a Mile” she also runs a series of events called “don’t judge a book by its cover”, which really takes her passion for reading and her understanding of how reading and literature have been so beneficial for her with her own mental health, and she is doing a series of events around different bookshops in - originally it’s just been in the borders - but she has an event coming up in Edinburgh on the tenth of May, which is where she invites other speakers and speaks herself about the importance of reading and how helpful and significant that has been in addressing her own mental health, and really just encouraging people to take that tool of speaking about books as a way of inspiring more meaningful conversations about mental health, which I think is really what all the Community Champion projects are trying to do. it’s using that social contact that we know is the most kind of effective way to tackle stigma and discrimination to begin really, really meaningful conversations about people’s experiences of mental health, whether That’s their own personal struggles with mental health, whether That’s the experiences of a family member or a friend or whether they’re a person who’s always considered to have no mental health problems at all, everybody can benefit.
MM At these events do you get kind of like members of the public coming up to you and saying, “Oh, I’ve been inspired about that”, and …?
MG Yeah, absolutely, and I think That’s one of the kind of main purposes of what we’re trying to do. it’s to - I think being involved in these sorts of events for our volunteers is hugely beneficial in building their own confidence and capacity and abilities, but also we want to be able to affect change beyond the volunteers and beyond people who are directly involved in See Me. So it’s really important that as you say members of the public come along and get something out of it, not just in terms of kind of awareness raising but perhaps an action that they’re actually going to take forward. I think it’s really important that we’re not just raising awareness but we’re also affecting behaviour change with the things that we do, and that can be something really simple. That can be just inspiring somebody to ask somebody in their life, “Are you okay? Do you want to talk?” It doesn’t have to be anything more grand than that, but that is an incredibly powerful thing to do.
MM What are you hoping for maybe in a year down the line kind of are you, I take it you would be hoping for more barriers to be pushed away and mental health will be one of these kind of because it, you know, going back a few years maybe about ten years ago it was one of these taboo subjects where nobody speaks about it, but as Nick was saying from a media point of view it’s quite good how the more people speak about it the more people listen and people can really understand as well …
MG Yeah, absolutely, and I think it’s so often the experience that as soon as that conversation has started, no matter who you’re talking to it will, talking about mental health will have some sort of meaning and resonance with that person and if it’s not talking about their own mental health then it could be speaking about the experiences of somebody close to them. I think anecdotally we can see that things are changing, even I think in quite a short period of time it is becoming easier to have those conversations and I think that awareness of mental health problems has grown hugely in the last few years. I think as I was saying the next barrier is maybe you’re aware of this, you theoretically feel compassion, but what are you going to do about it in practice?
MM Yeah, yeah.
MG And the more that we can talk about mental health, good mental health, bad mental health, things that we can do to keep ourselves feeling, you know, feeling well, then that benefits everybody and just makes for an overall kind of society.
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