New resource to get Scots confident talking about mental health

Posted by See Me, 2 August 2023

We’ve launched our newest resource – It's Okay to Talk – to help people across Scotland feel more confident having a conversation about mental health.

It’s Okay to Talk is a resource pack to help community groups, organisations and charities deliver workshops to build confidence around talking about mental health – all while tackling stigma and discrimination.

It's made up of conversation starter cards, presentation slides, facilitation notes and a participant pack that offers practical advice and tips on how to effectively listen and respond to someone who might be struggling.

We've also included guidance and advice for anyone who wants to open up a conversation about their own mental health but doesn’t know where to start.

See Me volunteer Richard Wood was involved in the delivery of one of the workshops. He said he found it “empowering” to be able to share his experiences with others.

He said: “I believe the best way we can tackle stigma and discrimination around mental health problems is through education and the ‘normalising’ of people having these conversations.

“I’d like us to get to a point where talking about mental health, and especially mental health problems, is seen as no different to discussing our physical health. Any tools we can use to help achieve this have got to be a good thing.”

Richard has struggled with his mental health since he was a teenager and spent almost two decades ignoring the issue. It wasn’t until he had a breakdown in 2017 that he started to open up about his mental health.

Richard said: “Confidence is a huge factor in how people have conversations about mental health, or even if they have them at all. Something I hear time and time again is that people are afraid to talk about mental health problems with someone because they ‘won’t know what to say’, or think that they may say the wrong thing, or worse – they may say something that triggers someone or causes them to do something.

“But the reality is no one really expects someone else to be able to fix things, and someone just listening with compassion and without judgment, can make such a huge difference.”

The 47-year-old from Glasgow said opening up about his mental health has helped him as part of his ongoing recovery. He went on to explain that every conversation we have helps normalise talking about mental health and breaking down barriers that keep us from seeking help.

“Similarly, people are often scared to discuss their own mental health with people as they may think they’ll be dismissed, judged or criticised. Most of us put much higher expectations on ourselves than we would ever dream of putting on our friends or family. And this fear of being open and honest about things can then result in someone's situation deteriorating, which causes more fear, and the cycle continues.

“Ultimately, both sides of the conversation show people that they’re not alone, and that is so important.”

Although views on mental health are changing, with nearly 80% of Scots saying their attitude towards mental health has got better in the last two decades, we want to build on the progress so far to ensure everyone in Scotland is able to get talking about mental health.

By having these conversations, we can help tackle stigma and discrimination and help people get the right support quicker. 

Groups can access all of the information they need to run their own It’s Okay to Talk workshops.

It's Okay to Talk was developed in collaboration with charities, organisations and volunteers with experience of mental health problems.

Over the last year, the resource has been piloted across seven different organisations: support charity Neil’s Hugs, Aberdeen University Mental Health Group, central-eastern European community support charity Feniks, arts organisation Fèisean nan Gàidheal, organisation Spit it Out, rugby club GHK Glasgow and See Me’s own volunteers.

 Wendy Halliday, director of See Me, said: “We can all find it difficult to speak up about our mental health.

“Whether that’s due to a fear of being judged, dismissed or treated differently, stigma still poses a significant barrier to many who want to reach out for help but feel like they can’t. In order to tackle this, we need to be able to feel confident opening up and starting a conversation.

“After piloting It’s Okay to Talk with different groups across Scotland, we’ve seen promising ways in which the resource can be adapted to suit a community’s need and equip people with guidance on how to have a supportive conversation.

“I’d encourage every group and organisation to learn more about the It’s Okay to Talk resource and use it to drive positive change in your community.”

Read more about It’s Okay to Talk and download your resource pack.