The world of the mental health campaigner can be challenging, confusing and riddled with pitfalls.
I think, for too long, I’ve been sharing up to date articles and reports to all in sundry with the mistaken belief that by raising awareness I’d been taking action to change things…
However…I’m not convinced.
Raising awareness without the other 3 is not unlike some kind of collective bystander apathy – surely if I raise awareness of this heinous thing/ action/ inaction then somebody somewhere must do something??
I don’t think that’s happening – so, please let me know what you think of my brand new, just out of the box, 4 A’s approach to mental health campaigning.
Awareness – this is the cornerstone of what we’re doing. Without knowledge of what’s going on for folk with mental health problems, people aren’t going to begin to engage with the conversation. Awareness raising on it’s own is limited though. People will flick through, possibly with a tut, or a, ‘Isn’t that terrible?’ under their breaths, before landing on the next thing.
Action – You could argue that raising awareness IS taking action. And you’d be right.
But is it enough?
What Action are YOU taking to change things? What Action CAN you take… I know, for me with my mental malady, that varies from day to day – hour by hour at times.
Action could be as simple as having a conversation with someone – a friend, a relative, a work colleague, your postman…
More ostentatiously, you could develop a talk, a presentation, a workshop…
You could join forces with your fellow campaigners…you could organise an event…
You could have a chat with folk who might not necessarily agree with you…
You could walk around the edge of the UK…
Accountability – take ownership of what you’re saying. Unless the people you claim to be speaking on behalf of are truly without a voice – don’t speak on their behalf – speak for yourself, and own it.
Attitudes – surely the goal of any mental health campaigner is to change negative attitudes against them and their people.
You’re not going to achieve that by telling people to shut up.
I believe that policing language that has been labelled as stigmatising or prejudiced is a red herring.
Although language is easy to see – and easy to measure – it doesn’t necessarily give us any idea of underlying attitudes.
Let’s take the example of the Metropolitan Police. I’m sure we’re agreed that their language when dealing with people from minority ethnic groups is exemplary – politically correct to the extreme.
If you are a black person living in our capital, you are 5 times more likely to be stopped and searched….
If you’re found in possession of drugs, you are 4 times more likely to be arrested.
And all the time, the language used is wonderfully PC.
Changing attitudes calls for engagement – conversation – openness and a strong desire not to take offence.
I’ve walked over 4 thousand miles around a chunk of the UK coastline with no money and Borderline Personality Disorder and people have been nothing but fabulous.
And that’s the 4 A’s.
It really is that simple.
Walk a Mile