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Each of us: new Europe-wide mental health campaign targets stigma and discrimination

The Bulletin and Flanders Today support the campaign Eachofus
11:28 07/06/2016
Brussels-based NGO Mental Health Europe (MHE) launches ambitious campaign

“Mental health problems are rare, I’ll never be affected.” This is one of ten myths surrounding mental health problems that MHE debunks in its campaign Each of us. The truth is that one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Among other figures highlighted in its information pack, one in five adolescents in Europe is affected by at least one psychological problem and three-quarters of European businesses report the presence of at least one psychosocial risk in the workplace, also in any given year.

Entitled Each of us is part of the solution. Let’s end mental health stigma together, MHE’s campaign calls on people across Europe to raise awareness of mental health issues. “We need to put an end to stigma and discrimination because people living with mental ill health are being discriminated against in daily life, being denied access to goods, services and even their legal rights. Stigma and discrimination can unfortunately be a real barrier to people’s recovery from mental health problems,” says MHE’s communication officer Ophelie Martin.

While recognising that awareness around mental health issues has improved over the last decade, she points out that “stigma and discrimination remain unacceptably high mainly due to negative stereotypes around mental health, in the media and on TV, within professional and school settings and even in the health sector.”

Martin says the aim of the on-going campaign is to raise awareness among a public it does not usually reach, such as schools, universities and the workplace. “If some of these people change their mind and language when referring to people with mental health problems after finding out about the campaign, that will be a first success.”

MHE is also in the process of developing basic mental health training for businesses. “These trainings will give the right tools to employers and employees on how to spot the first signs of mental distress and how to deal with them. More knowledgeable people are more likely to be helpful and supportive,” she says.

People can support the campaign by telling their own stories. “We strongly encourage people to share their own experiences living with mental health problems or stigma. We have set up a wall of stories on the campaign’s website where we gather personal stories, and we do hope it will encourage others to speak up. We need people to understand that mental health problems are way more common than they think,” explains Martin.

What else can they do to show support? “We invite people to print out leaflets from our campaign kit, wear one of our badges and take a photo with family, friends and colleagues to share on social media with the hashtag #eachofus. The more visibility we gain, the more impactful our message is,” she says.

How does Belgium compare to other EU countries in its approach to mental health? Says Martin: “ According to our Belgian membership, for the past few years awareness raising on mental health issues both in Flanders and Wallonia has improved. Although there is much work left to be done in the field, some new reforms have been launched including new legislation about mental health prevention and promotion in the workplace, as well as the national reform of the mental health care system.”

Mental Health Europe represents mental health associations, organisations and individuals from across Europe. It is active in shaping EU policy and acts as a contact point between European institutions and businesses. Its mission includes promoting positive mental health and well-being for all

Photo: The Bulletin and Flanders Today support the campaign #Eachofus

 

Written by Sarah Crew