It’s time to end the stigma surrounding mental health

Paul Scates and Rob Flux

mental health getty creativ 300x225 Its time to end the stigma surrounding mental health

(Getty Creative)

Paul Scates and his fiancé Rob Flux talk about bipolar disorder, the couple appear in the new Time to Change advert encouraging the nation to talk about mental health.

Paul is a creative events director, mental health campaigner, peer specialist and media presenter. Paul has a strong passion to influence systematic change to current mental health services and to inspire those experiencing mental health problems.

As a person who lives with bipolar disorder, yet is fortunate enough to live a fulfilling and enlightened life, I know only too well how pivotal the role of my friends, partners and family is in supporting my health. As many of you reading will know, for every success there has to be a multitude of mechanisms which enable the machine to work.

One of the main components of my wellbeing is my partner; an undeniable source of trust, respect and love which is unbiased from academia or clinical practice. It’s a relationship which I hope many of you share; with a partner, a mother, a father, a sibling, a friend a guidance which helps deliver us from crisis.

One of the many examples of my partner’s support has come in the guise of reasoning, which has prevented several severe episodes of hyper-mania. Those episodes could have been potentially disastrous due to my euphoric state and inability to understand the consequences of my actions.

Those consequences could and have led to injury or disturbance, reckless spending, associating with unsavoury characters or, worse still, led to a period of horrendous clinical depression. Without my partner by my side I would have been vulnerable to my environment yet feeling like I could conquer the world. One such incident involved me risking my life for the pursuit of excitement and had my partner not intervened it could have been very serious.

Fortunately, I’ve now had the ability to be able to talk openly about my condition and in my opinion everybody should be able to do that. From a recent survey by Time to Change, 75 per cent of people with a mental health problem say they have lost friendships as a result of their illness. This sadly shows that many people without experience of mental health problems still feel awkward talking about the subject. If someone is suffering from mental illness, seeing or speaking to friends can be really beneficial for a lot of people.

With one in four people going through a mental health problem in any given year, it’s more than likely that you already know someone with a mental health problem. Starting a conversation could make a big difference to their lives. Although you might feel awkward and not fully understand mental health problems, don’t let that stop you from just asking ‘how they are’.  Those three words could really help.


Rob is an NHS rehabilitation practitioner and nutritionist. He attends the regional monthly Bipolar UK meetings with his partner Paul in an effort to better understand Paul’s condition which in turn helps him to better support Paul.

I met my fiancée Paul 18 months ago and as a partner of someone with a mental health condition, I took it upon myself to try and learn as much about their condition as possible so as to better understand how it affects them and what processes exist to aid in their recovery.

I only discovered Paul had bipolar disorder by accident before he openly admitted it to me when I found his medication. At first, I worried about what to do or what to say and then I soon realised that I didn’t have to do anything, apart from mainly be there and listen.

Being in a relationship, I like to make sure Paul knows that I am there for him whenever he needs me but at the same time, not to make him feel as if I am watching his every move. I like Paul to feel safe in the knowledge that I am here and I am ready to provide support, whether requested or not, when the situation requires it.

There have been a few incidents where I have been Paul’s ‘anchor’ in times of hyper-mania to prevent him from going into a euphoric state where he was oblivious to the consequences of his actions. In equal measure, I have also had to provide an uplifting sense of positivity when Paul has entered a low period of feeling worthless and unloved.

Talking about mental health is one of the most powerful tools you can ever employ because the more you know about it, the better you can deal with it. My philosophy: It’s only an issue if you let it become one. What I have learnt is that you don’t have to be an expert to start a conversation about mental health.  Being supportive can include small gestures like sending a quick text or email or an invitation to meet up.

As more and more people in the public eye open up about mental health, it’s something we will be able to normalise like any other illness. Talking about mental health can strengthen friendships, aid recovery, break down stereotypes and take the taboo out of something that affects us all. Why not start a conversation with someone you know experiencing a mental health problem? It could be one of the most important conversations you have.

Time to Change is England’s most ambitious programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief.

For more information click here or tweet #timetotalk

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  • johnnybe

    That’s brilliant Andy, even if it doesn’t, I still love it, you convinced me.

  • RedRoseAndy

    I got the quote from ‘New Scientist’ some years ago. Recently there has been quite a lot in the papers saying much the same. Perhaps you should read round the subject, and even try my cure. You can find more at:

  • RedRoseAndy

    See my reply to Calvin Hobbes below.

  • iofjgiero

    what about stigmatisation created through sensationalist stories about “tobacco moment” for cannabis and schizophrenia

  • Odysseus

    How is it possible to end stigma for something that has the word “disorder” in it? It is something that people know that it is bad to have but “Hey people, pretend it’s not that bad”. Mental health stigma will never end as long as professionals keep making diagnostic categories and labels such as ‘Bipolar Disorder’. Discrimination around mental health will really end only when psychological issues stop being medical problems. Bipolar condition? Better. Human with certain psychological characteristics? Even better. Fullstop.

  • justathought

    The only way to break this whole negative preconception thing we have going on between people suffering with certain types of mental illness and the people who are affected in turn by these peoples suffering, is for sufferers to educate themselves about whatever it is they are dealing with and build a framework of support for themselves to function in. By experience i can say that the only thing that has worked in allowing me to live an easy, stress free life is the information that i decided to not only learn but to understand.

    The same can be said for families or friends of those suffering, with a proper understanding of what and why peoples behaviour changes, you can tailor how you choose to comfort or help based on your understanding.

    There isn’t and never will be enough time for Mental health teams/ Doctors/ Psychiatrists to educate people fully about the illnesses, you would have to spend months alone listening intently for this to be possible and so it’s vital that people rise to the responsibility of knowing as much about the illness they or their loved ones are suffering from as the Mental Health experts who are aiding in the process.

    It takes years in medical school to get to where these experts get, but it only takes weeks of personal research and use of the internet to understand the base of information you will need to understand in order to allow yourself to live easy and stress free.

  • Harold Maio

    It is not at all helpful when one referees our lack of knowledge of mental illnesses as “stigma”. It is especially harmful when the term is promoted by a professional. Like you, I am appalled at the manner in which some espress their learned prejudices, “stigma” is a prime example. Learned prejudices can be overcome, uttering learned prejudices can as well. may you unlearn this one quickly.
    How does one deal with a prejudiced colleague? I hav found one of the best ways is to respond with polite references, replacing not criticising those spoken. To yours, were I to hear if from you I would repond:

    “Yes, there remains much ignorance about mental illlnesses. We are, howover, learning more every day.”

  • Harold Maio

    My apologies for the typos: “References”, not referees, “express”, and “however. “however”, “have” not hav.and respond.

  • fairgo

    There is no stigma attached to mental health, it’s mental ILLNESS that people can’t even bring themselves to say.

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