‘Political Minds’ campaign group launched to change narrative on Scots’ mental health

Stuart Rodger

Campaign group to meet new minister for mental health to address issues including social security provision

A NEW campaign group seeking to change the narrative on mental health has been launched in Scotland.

The organisation, ‘Political Minds’, is seeking to raise awareness across the political spectrum about how mental health issues affect different Scottish demographics, how the political process can better serve their needs, and address how our economy and society can be changed to promote good mental health.

Speaking to CommonSpace, co-founder of the group Jamie Walker, said: “We want to influence decision makers, influence the political process to better understand mental health issues, so that politicians can better represent their constituents.

“We want to make sure mental health is on the agenda.”

Stressing the cross-party and non-party nature of the campaign, Walker, who is in the SNP himself, said: “We’ve had good conversations with Lisa Cameron MP, chair of the all-party disability group at Westminster and Monica Lennon, who is part of Scottish Labour’s health team.”

Other Political Minds campaigners include Rise activist Lynsey Pattie and non-aligned mental health activist Ailsa Comrie.

“When we’re building this new social security system mental health has to be a crucial part of that.” Jamie Walker

Talking about the motivations for the launch of such a group, Walker said they were inspired by the recent success of the One in Five campaign, which was set up to promote access to politics for disabled people and which has successfully achieved a £200,000 fund to support disabled election candidates.

He said: “Given that mental health is still grossly misunderstood, still, despite great progress over the last few years, there’s still stigma, there’s still discrimination, there’s still issues with human rights and access to employment and so on.”

“We wanted to create a space for the discussion of mental health issues. That was the main motivation behind it. Mental health has its own issues, and desperately needs to be talked about on the same level playing field [as physical health]. This is what Political Minds wants to do. Immediately when you talk about it, it’s not taken seriously. It’s visibility that’s the problem.”

Discussing specific problems which the campaign might seek to address, Walker said: “The types of treatments that are involved, there’s a rush to medication in many circumstances. We’ve obviously got to look at a variety of other ways that people can get help, whether that’s through talking therapies or walking therapies or art.”

“Immediately when you talk about it,  it’s not taken seriously. It’s visibility that’s the problem.” Jamie Walker

The group will be looking into the possibility of making a submission to the Scottish Government’s social security consultation. The Scottish Government are currently asking the public for their say on how new benefits being devolved to the Scottish Parliament – including personal independence payments for disabled people – should be designed and delivered.

Walker said: “When we’re building this new social security system mental health has to be a crucial part of that. I think I can go on record and say that the current system is not recognizing mental health issues. It’s placing unnecessary stress and anxiety on people.”

“When they fill out their forms it’s very physical in nature. There’s only a couple of questions relating to mental health. They fail to recognise that getting up and getting dressed is a mental health issue, feeding yourself is a mental health issue, going to work can be a mental health issue.”

The launch of the campaign group comes after the Scottish Government created a new ministerial position for mental health, which is currently held Maureen Watt MSP. The group plan to meet with the minister on the 23rd of August. Following the meeting, the group intend to launch their first campaign, ‘I am a political mind’.

Walker said: “It’s quite an easy and simple one. People can write on a bit of paper. Or people can tweet under the hashtag #Iamapoliticalmind. I am probably going to talk about poverty – and recognizing the mental health links to it.”

Walker added that it was open to collaboration with existing groups such as See Me and the Scottish Association for Mental Health (Samh).

He said:“We are hoping to partner up on issues with joint interests. We had a great conversation with See Me. It’s to be inclusive. That’s important with mental health, how rich you are, how poor you are, whatever gender you are, it affects everyone.”

Picture courtesy of Political Minds

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