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Letter from the editor: So proud of work on mental health, but there's more to do

PUBLISHED: 15:23 18 September 2016 | UPDATED: 15:23 18 September 2016

The Evening News Mental Health Watch campaign has aimed to tackle the stigma around mental health. Picture: time to change/newscast online

The Evening News Mental Health Watch campaign has aimed to tackle the stigma around mental health. Picture: time to change/newscast online

Time to change/Newscast Online

In 15 years of journalism the Mental Health Watch campaign we launched late last year has given me more pride than anything else.

When you launch a campaign, you take a big risk. There’s always the chance no-one will take any notice, no-one will respond and it will flop. With this campaign, the fact that too often mental health remains an unspoken and uncomfortable subject for many was as much a reason to launch it, as it was for being concerned it wouldn’t engage readers. However, within a few seconds of putting out the first tweet announcing the launch, it was clear those fears were unfounded.

The response was staggering. We were deluged with emails, calls, and letters of support. People openly told of their stories and struggles.

It was like they had just been waiting for such a campaign. On the one hand we were delighted, as clearly we’d picked our battle and it had been the correct one.

But the reaction was also testament to just how much work needs to be done to spread awareness, reduce the stigma and fight for better services for those who are suffering.

This week, we were honoured that the campaign has been shortlisted for a national award by Mind, the mental health charity.

Such recognition isn’t why you do the job, but it helps.

But the point behind this column today is to reiterate that the hard work can’t stop here.

We’re clearly not the only one who has been highlighting this issue during the past 12 months and that means there have been improvements in some areas.

However, in this region alone, waiting times for care remain high, unexpected death rates continue to follow a worrying trend and the mental health trust remains in special measures, though there is hope that may soon change. The stigma attached to mental health conditions is disappearing, but there is still a long way to go before we reach the point where the majority of people are as happy to talk about their mental health as they are their physical.

When that happens we will know we’ve taken great strides.

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