by James McLean
It’s safe to say that awareness about mental health issues has been a hazy subject at best for a very long time. A lack of understanding as well as a lasting social stigma have ensured that a lot of people that are suffering never try to find the help that they need. Unsurprisingly in areas such as North and East Ayrshire that has some of the highest unemployment in Scotland, if you look at government statistics on things such as drug related hospital stays or anxiety and depression diagnoses you’ll notice both North and East Ayrshire close to the top of any of these lists.
This is something that the Ayrshire councils are aware of and have promised to do better. A plan was put in place to try and tackle inequality and deprivation around North Ayrshire with the opening of the Woodland View Mental Health and Community Hospital in 2016 being hailed as a resounding success. This care facility has done a good job at looking after those that have crossed the threshold in to needing professional help. A common criticism of the way mental health issues are dealt with in North Ayrshire, however, is that it is focused too much on reactive care rather than preventative care, this is the difference between helping those already affected and making sure that they never need to get to that point in the first place. With the county being one of the worst in the country for youth suicides this criticism is very valid. Seemingly in an effort to rectify this, North Ayrshire council has started taking steps towards early education and prevention in our secondary schools. This is the first area in the country where every secondary school has been provided with a councillor to help pupils in crisis. This has been crucial in teaching young people that it’s ok to talk about the things that are bothering them.
Another area that has seen a positive development in regards to early education has been the inclusion of 36 members of staff and 240 pupils from across Greenwood Academy, Irvine Royal Academy, St Matthew’s Academy, Kilwinning Academy, Ardrossan Academy, Arran High School, Auchenharvie Academy, Largs Academy and Garnock Community Campus in mental health first aid training. This training started in June with the hope of building confidence and teaching the impact that stigma and discrimination have on people and how best to combat this. The eventual hope is that the few that have been to the training will take it’s lessons back to their respective schools and share the information with everyone else.
Credit where credit is due, this all seems like a very good idea. The biggest problem with issues like these is the difficulty people have in opening up and talking. Teaching people early that it’s OK to talk is a practical and powerful step forward.
If you feel like you might need help, please reach out to the people close to you or consider professional help. If that seems like too much for the moment, then there is also a long list of apps designed to help many different problems:
Beat Panic – Overcome panic attacks and anxiety wherever you are
Blue Ice – Helps young people manage their emotions and stop self-harming
MeeTwo – A safe and secure forum for teenagers to discuss their issues
Calm – Meditate, sleep, relax