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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Mental health campaign hits the road

Written by The Editorial Team

SAMH are taking their Know Where to Go campaign on the road, so that people in remote and rural areas can get help for a mental health problem when they need it.

The campaign was launched in May with support from Stephen Fry and actor Sanjeev Kohli. Although one in four people in Scotland will experience a mental health problem in any given year, over 800,000 people in Scotland wouldn't know where to seek help if they had concerns about their mental health. And a new SAMH report suggests that those living in remote and rural areas face additional challenges in getting help.

These problems can be logistical, such as getting to a hospital-based service with limited transport options and long distances. They can also be social: it can be harder to seek help for a mental health problem in a small community where most people know each other. And Scottish research has found that isolation from social networks and support services, combined with an exaggerated culture of self-reliance, may contribute to stress, anxiety and depression in rural areas.

Maria Hall, who became involved in the Highland user group HUG after personally experiencing mental health problems, said,

"It's really important to give people the information they need, and to give them that support to make the first step towards getting help. That's why the Know Where to Go campaign is so crucial.

"At one of my lowest points I was incredibly isolated. I had no friends or family nearby and I slipped into a deep depression. Someone gave me a card with a number on it for an emergency phone line, and I cannot describe the intense relief I felt at knowing there was somewhere I could turn - a safety net. I never actually used it, but just knowing that I could gave me a lot of comfort. I didn't know there was so much support available, and if we can highlight this then others might be in a better position than I was".

Taking advantage of technology is one way of addressing the problem, particularly as households in rural Scotland are more likely to have home internet access than those in the rest of Scotland. Many organisations provide phone and email based services, giving both easy access and anonymity. The internet in particular provides an opportunity for people to connect with others who have had similar experiences.

The Know Where to Go roadshow will be providing information on how to get help online and elsewhere. It kicked off this month on The Plainstones in Elgin and in the local Elgin library, where SAMH hosted a pop-up information centre.

Carolyn Roberts, Head of Policy and Campaigns at SAMH, said, "If you don't live near a service, or you can only get an appointment at a time when the local bus service isn't running, it can be really hard to get help for a mental health problem. We hope we can help people to know where to go for help, whether it's online, on the phone or on the high street".

Tracey Grant, SAMH service manager based in Moray, said, "Living and working in Moray has many advantages, but the mental health services have traditionally been very centralised. Working with Moray Council, SAMH has set up social inclusion groups in outlying areas so that people who can't get to a central service still have somewhere to go for help".

Throughout the next couple of months SAMH will be taking the Know Where to Go campaign across the country, covering the Highlands, Borders and the Western Isles. There are many ways for people to get involved with the campaign, from coming along to an event, making their own campaign film about where you went for help with their mental health to running a Know Where to Go pop-up stand.