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'It's Okay To Not Feel Okay': Shattering The Mental Health Stigma

16/12/2016 16:03

As a society, we aspire to be the best possible versions of ourselves, but the reality is that's not always possible. Life throws its ups and downs but admitting when you're struggling can be tough, especially through adolescence. With only one in five 15-25* year olds admitting that they cope with negative feelings by speaking to people that support them, mental health charity See Me has launched a new campaign to change the way youngsters deal with life's challenge.

It's Okay aims to squash the stigma around mental health, supporting millennials through life's worries and encouraging them to speak out. Since launching in November, over 600 young people in Scotland have shared their feelings and worries on a platform created as part of the campaign.

While at times young people can find it difficult to express themselves, the online platform Itsokay.tv allows them to share their feelings anonymously using the 'It's okay to...' tagline. Responses cover a number of topics such as; 'It's okay to...be different to other people', 'It's okay to...be sad for no reason' and 'It's okay to...be different to other people'. Collectively the posts are helping youngsters realise that what they're dealing with isn't uncommon and they're not alone.

This is a key step in the right direction for See Me, after they carried out research which found that the majority of young people in Scotland don't tell anyone if they are struggling with their mental health. New figures show that young people are not going to family, teachers or carers when they are experiencing negative thoughts and feelings.

The biggest barrier to reaching out is that young people feel they're not taken seriously by adults when it comes to mental health. Only 37% said they would tell someone if they were finding it difficult to cope, compared to 78% who would tell someone if they were physically ill.

When asked how they cope with negative thoughts and feelings only 21% said they would speak to someone who supports them. Whereas 46% would rather keep themselves isolated and 50% would cope by crying.

On the contrary, a YouGov survey (commissioned by See Me) of 203 Scottish adults with a young person in their care showed 82% would feel confident talking to a young person about mental health. 75% told the survey that they would be confident knowing where to go for help and advice.

Speaking on her own experience, student Mairi McLaughlin, 21, from Glasgow, first started to experience struggles with her mental health when she was at school. Mairi thinks that more people need to speak openly about mental health, saying: "Everything can affect your mental health, everyone has mental health, whether it is good or not good, the way you feel is such a big part of who we are and part of our everyday lives.

"Not being able to talk about how you feel, or worrying that someone will judge you for it will affect you.

"If you're scared to say something about how you feel then it will just make you feel worse because you are having to deal with it yourself, and if you don't know how to deal with it then it will get worse.

"Knowing that it is okay to tell someone you're not okay is really important."

With a vision to help more students like Mairi, See Me is working to ensure that mental health isn't viewed a taboo subject.

Lisa Cohen, See Me programme manager, said: "Young people should be able to speak openly about what they are going through, without feeling guilty. It is okay not to be okay.

"It is great to see young people using the site to share how they are feeling, but we want this to be a step to people being able to talk about this in everyday life. The site is a great way for young people to know they are not alone and see that others are experiencing similar thoughts.

"Everyone involved in young people's lives needs to have the confidence to open up conversations about mental health and be supportive about what to do next.

"We all need someone we can talk to and trust. We want young people to know that there will be a person that will have the ability to listen and be there for you."

Get involved and help change the way young adults deal with mental health by visiting www.itsokay.tv and share how you're feeling.

For more information on the new campaign check out the 'It's Okay...' video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg1SokvP-h4.

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