no laughing matter
James profiles Sue Baker, head of the largest ever campaign
to tackle the stigma associated with mental health
Baker has, to coin a phrase, got balls.
travelling via rail from Poole, someone jumped in front of the train.
The tragedy caused the journey to be delayed. But one passenger
felt it was an opportunity for a wisecrack. "Couldn’t
he had waited until we got home,” he declared. Other passengers
chuckled. Not so Baker. Instead, she said to the ‘joker’:
“I worry about you because if you are depressed you will really
struggle. I hope you never experience depression.” The carriage
fell into silence.
gutso might serve Baker well in her new role as director of Moving
People, the largest ever campaign to tackle attitudes and discrimination
towards people with mental health problems. The Big Lottery Fund
and Comic Relief is pumping £18m into the four-year initiative
which will be overseen by the Mental Health Media, Mind and Rethink
charities and the Institute of Psychiatry.
campaign will include national media adverts and dozens of anti-discrimination
community initiatives. Moving People aims to bring about a measurable
5% decrease in mental illness and 5% reduction in discrimination.
was Mind’s former head of media relations. She also headed
a depression awareness campaign in New Zealand. She has, therefore,
significant experience to draw upon as, in particular, she works
on the national media campaign. Baker says the six months dedicated
to researching and co-ordinating this will be money well spent.
“The message has got to be right,” emphasises Baker.
“And it also has to have some impact on behaviour.”
who herself has experienced depression, is "passionate”
about service user involvement and says it will be central to Moving
People. Users will hope they will be represented by the three charities
involved in Moving People. Nevertheless, Baker says one service
user or care – yet to be nominated – will also join
the five stakeholders serving on the management committee. There
will also be a 12-member service user and carer advisory group.
“A lot of training is now delivered, managed and evaluated
by service users,” says Baker. “But while user involvement
is easy to say, it is something we will have to achieve”
is noticeable that Moving People’s stakeholders have distinctly
different traditions. The Institute of Psychiatry’s latest
medical research on schizophrenia, for example, was an examination
of its genetic similarities with bipolar disorder. Such a focus
might not sit well with the more radical history of other stakeholders,
such as Mind, whose 2007 “champion of the year”, Peter
Campbell, has been a member of the Campaign Against Psychiatric
Oppression. Will such differences invoke grievances when deciding
upon the nuances of a national anti-stigma campaign? Baker foresees
no serious problem, saying the mental health sector’s "mentality”
is now more focused on working together. “Some of the differences
in approaches and guiding models can be overcome,” she says.
“Think of the groups involved in the Mental Health Alliance
[a network of 77 mental health-related organisations which opposed
the government’s mental health bill].” Moreover, she
points out, the institute will be more involved in a £2m evaluation
of the projects, rather than managing them.
most everyone in mental health recognises attitudes towards those
with a psychiatric diagnosis desperately needs to be tackled. As
one traveler on a train back from Poole would testify, Baker will
do her bit with added bravado.
People will do:
* Develop 28 community projects, such as fitness and gardening groups,
to support 24,500 people in England with mental health problems
to lead healthier lifestyles.
* Spend £8m in social marketing – including media, possibly
television, advertisements - to change public attitudes.
* Organise an annual “Get Moving” week, focusing on
the benefits of physical activity.
* Empower users to oppose discrimination in their local communities.
* Pursue discrimination against people with mental health problems
in the courts
29, 2007: People with mental health problems experience "extreme"
level of victimisation - most have suffered theft, been attacked,
harassed, sexually assaulted or raped by people in their own community,
according to new report.
29, 2007: Man names himself after psychiatric hospital to combat
stigma - Brendan Curran is now Craig Dunain, the name of the
former psychiatric hospital in Inverness
don't accept it
Harold Maio, Advisory Board of the American Journal of Psychiatric
Rehabilitation, UPENN Collaborative on Community Integration of
Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, Philadelphia, United
Date: January 23, 2008
nuances of a national anti-stigma campaign are generally not recognized,
it is merely an opportunity to place the term "'stigma"
firmly in the public's mind. The public will remember the term far
longer with the help of such campaigns.
of the most insidious impacts of assigning stigmas, indeed their
purpose, is victims of that prejudice, like Sue Baker, internalize
them, teach them, and assign them. One of the most insidious impacts
of a pretense of stigma is editors slip them in equally naively,
of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz tested what volunteers
remembered from a flyer from the National Centre for Disease Control
and Prevention. The flyer tried to correct myths about the flu vaccine,
such as "only older people need a flu vaccine." Contrary
to what the centre expected, instead of retaining the new, correct
information, most of the volunteers recalled only the incorrect
myths. Repeating and deny the myths only pounded them into the readers'
direct contrast to the above, women refuted the stigma of rape,
they did not work against it, they declined to accept it whatsoever
and directed our attention to the assault, the crime, the criminal.
Their campaign was successful. Not one single journalist would dare
reenter that prejudice into the "news."
Like far too many people in mental health, Sue and you have been
trained to accept this prejudice and "work against it."
One starts by rejecting it.
I'll do anything
to bring improvement
Baker, mental health service user, London
Date: July 11, 2008
I feel disgusted with the media's haphazard and unprecipitated attack
on mental health service users/survivors.
have encountered much prejudice/discrimination and have the most
stigmatising diagnostic label ever known - borderline personality
article on stigma was well-written and well-documented. I have also
volunteered in various user-led support services in the past and
will do anything to rectify the current situation concerning mental
health service user/survivors and to improve and enhance their life
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