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See Me YoL Guest Blog

This Year of Listening guest blog post is from See Me, Scotland's national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

‘Are you okay?’ It is a question we don’t ask each other enough, especially if we think the answer might be ‘no’.

But for those of us who are struggling with our mental health, a simple ‘are you okay?’ can make a huge difference. Speaking out about our mental health isn’t easy, and people often say that the behaviours and reactions of others can be worse than a diagnosis itself.

Talking about mental health

You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health. Really listening and being there for someone can make a huge difference. We all need care and support, this includes when we are experiencing a period of poor mental health.

Everyone has mental health, it affects all of us, yet there is still a stigma around it. To tackle this properly we all need to understand that it is okay not to be okay and you can talk about how you are feeling.

One of See Me's volunteers Gemma went to get help for depression after her friend recognised that something was wrong. Gemma had isolated herself from people around her, doubted how she was feeling and questioned if she was actually unwell. But her friend saw something was wrong, asked her how she was and encouraged her to get help.

Really listening can make a huge difference

Gemma said: “If it wasn’t for my friend asking if I was okay, and really listening, then I wouldn’t have got help.

“One thing I struggled with is how isolating depression can be. I completely removed myself. When someone broke through that, and really wanted to know if I was okay that really helped me to get better.”

Author Tina was put off from telling people about her mental health problems for years, worried about how others would react. She thinks it would have made a huge difference if someone had asked her how she was doing.

She said: “When I was going through a bad time, if someone had asked me how I was and really listened it would have made a huge difference.

“It is stressful enough when you are ill without being worried about people finding out. It would have been brilliant if someone could have asked me how I was.

“If you see someone not doing well ask the question, encourage them to get help and support them in any way you can. Tell them it’s okay not to be okay, you can recover.”

Power of Okay campaign

Last year at See Me we ran our Power of Okay campaign, which included a great poem you can see here, from video producer Ian Greenhill. He wrote the poem based on his own experiences and also co-directed and produced the video.

He said: “I personally think it's important to start the discussion about mental health and the simple start-off point of 'okay' seemed really powerful.

“We just want a discussion to be started rather than people being scared of saying the wrong thing and just not saying anything.

“If we all start out at that base level of human kindness, I think the world would be a lot better.

”We all need to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. So if you’re worried about someone, or you see someone struggling, don’t shy away from speaking to them. Reaching out and listening to what’s on their minds could make all the difference.

In Scotland's Year of Listening, find out more about the Power of Okay here.

For listening and advice if you're feeling low, call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87.