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Health Minister Michael McGimpsey takes a stand against stigma

Friday, 8 October 2010

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, today signed up to a pledge to take a stand against the stigma associated with mental health.

Up to 300 schoolchildren and their teachers also signed the pledge during the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ event to celebrate World Mental Health Day.

The Minister said: "The stigma which society attaches to mental illness must be wiped out. It prevents people from seeking help, gets in the way of recovery, and erodes the quality of life of those living with a mental illness.

"People with mental health conditions should not be made to feel ashamed or socially excluded. But this is exactly what stigma does. We still have a long way to go before society has an open, mature and constructive attitude to mental health.

"But each new generation brings new outlooks and attitudes, participation in today’s event testifies to that new outlook. We all have our part to play in consigning this stigma to the past."

One in four people in Northern Ireland will experience some form of mental ill-health in their lives.

The Minister said: "Stigma can be tackled. Anti-stigma campaigns have been successful in changing attitudes for the better in Scotland. My Department is developing a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion Strategy to be implemented by the Public Health Agency and others. Action to address stigma in Northern Ireland will be part of this strategy.”

Notes to editors:

1. One in four people in Northern Ireland will experience some form of mental ill-health in their lives. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem.

2. Research shows that one in ten 15 and 16 year olds in Northern Ireland have self-harmed at some stage. In Northern Ireland, 4,500 people need hospital treatment each year due to self harming.

3. Lifeline, the Regional Crisis 24/7 Helpline, is a Department of Health-funded service run by Contact Youth. Calls are answered by trained counsellors who are experienced in dealing with suicide, self-harm, abuse, trauma, depression and anxiety. The number is: 0808 808 8000

4. The Minding Your Head website, run by the Public Health Agency, is for people who are worried about poor mental health, either their own or that of someone else, as well as those interested in maintaining good mental health. It can be found online.

5. Media enquiries to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0074, or out of hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.