Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Campaign over mental health stigma

Mental Health Minister John Moloney and broadcaster Eileen Dunne at the launch of the See Change Mental Health stigma reduction partnership at The Mansion House in Dublin
Mental Health Minister John Moloney and broadcaster Eileen Dunne at the launch of the See Change Mental Health stigma reduction partnership at The Mansion House in Dublin

Many mental health sufferers are seen solely in terms of their illness regardless of the contribution they make to society, a minister has said.

John Moloney said it was time to tackle the stigma experienced by patients who lack a voice.

The junior health minister was launching a two-year nationwide campaign to help change perceptions of mental health problems.

"Stigma has no place in Irish society today," Mr Moloney said. "It damages people's lives and can be deeply hurtful and isolating, and is one of the most significant problems encountered by people with mental health problems.

"Learning to live with mental health problems is extremely difficult, but this difficulty can be compounded when someone experiences, at first hand, the prejudice caused by stigma. "It can also be distressing for the families and friends of those persons."

The Sea Change initiative will run for at least two years.

It is hoped that by the end of that period people with mental health problems will find it easier to participate as valued members of society, with access to meaningful employment, appropriate housing and positive interpersonal relationships.

National and local organisations across the country will carry the anti-stigma message through local broadcasts, local print media and a range of other activities.

Mr Moloney, who has responsibility for disability and mental health, said those suffering from mental health problems lack a voice to tackle discrimination.

"People with mental health problems are often seen solely in terms of their health problems and are labelled by it, regardless of their overall contribution to society," the minister said. "But what perhaps singles out the stigmatisation of these people from other potentially marginalised groups is the lack of voice that they often have in fighting against discrimination. I firmly believe that the time has come to take up the challenge and tackle this negativity and deliver action."

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