A new organisation in Jersey is seeking to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses and their families, by raising awareness of the most serious conditions and breaking down social stigma.Focus on Mental Illness, led by mental health worker Stephen McCrimmon, is focussed specifically on the most severe end of the mental health spectrum, which despite the increased focus on mental health, he says, remains heavily stigmatised.'Certain named illnesses still carry the biggest stigma', says Stephen McCrimmon of Focus on Mental Illness, 'schizophrenia, bipolar disorder... any types of psychotic illnesses, people tend to be quite unsure about them.'During our lifetime, one in six people will experience a mental health issue.
But a far smaller number, one in 100, will suffer from a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.McCrimmon has spent most of his working life in mental health, the last 15 as part of Mind Jersey, and has now decided to dedicate himself to an area he feels has been left behind.
I sit on the Executive committee of the Royal College of Psychiatry and some of the greatest minds there have said they've seen the fantastic work but the people who've been left behind are the ones with the most severe, most stigmatised mental health conditions, so what we want to do is bring that to the forefront
Adrienne Dixon knows all about the stigma attached to mental illness. She became mentally ill when she was just 16.
Today at 21, she is half way through university- and making the most of her opportunities. But that was not always a given.
I experienced stigma quite directly, from a mental health expert. I was quite young at the time, and he made it very clear to me when I was in a very bad place that I shouldn't open up to people and talk about it because it could have further implications in terms of employment down the line and especially with Jersey being such a small place.
Adrienne's recovery was aided by her supportive family, who in turn had support from Stephen, after being put in touch with him by a friend. He then went on to become a direct support for Adrienne too.'He became a really good support network for our whole family,' she says, ' and was able to advise my family on the things that would help me recover.'Helping families cope with mental illness is a key focus for Focus on Mental Illness.
Sue Lockyer has also experienced mental illness in her family, and knows how important it is for family members to shave someone to turn to when mental illness hits.
It came out of the blue and none of us were prepared for how to deal with it and we had never encountered anything like it before. We got put in touch with Stephen which has helped not only the sufferer but the family network as well. We've become very good at mental wellbeing and looking after ourselves that way, but when it comes to severe mental illness it's a lot harder.
When it comes to World Mental Health Day, Stephen says the best thing we can do is to work on our own awareness.
What I would like people to be aware of when we talk about mental health, is to remember mental illness. And to remember that actually those with severe and serious mental illness are those most stigmatised when it comes to the parameters of the mental health awareness campaigns.
Focus on Mental Illness can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07797710900.