Rizzle Kicks star Jordan Stephens has launched an anti-stigma campaign for young people on World Mental Health Day (October 10).
#IAMWHOLE was born in Brighton and Hove, and will see people across the country posting ‘circle on hand’ selfies on social media sites in support of the campaign’s anti-stigma message.
Rizzle Kick Jordan, who grew up in the city, teamed up with the local NHS, the Brighton and Hove City Council and the youth charity YMCA to support the campaign.
He’s even released a song called ‘Whole, which is about tackling mental health issues, and features lyrics such as: “I’ve been in a hole lately, fighting my own crazy…”
The song was first performed in the British Airways i360, in front of an audience of local school, college and university students, to launch the campaign.
He said: “The #IAMWHOLE campaign message that ‘together we are whole’ is so important and I am pleased to be launching it today on World Mental Health Day. My mum is a trained therapist so I’ve seen how important it is for people to get the right support and not to feel isolated.
“I’ve also had friends and people close to me seriously affected by mental health issues. I wrote ‘Whole’ to express how I was feeling at the bottom of a situation. When the NHS suggested it could be used to give other people a way of feeling less alone, man that felt really good.
“The power of a hashtag is that it unites people. #IAMWHOLE the idea is you draw a circle on your hand if you feel like you want to communicate your issues either personally, or maybe a friend or member of your family is going through a struggle, and you just want to communicate that.
“You don’t have to necessarily say anything, you just draw a circle on your hand, take a little selfie use the hashtag #IAMWHOLE, then you click on the hastag and then you’re like ‘Oh man I’m not even alone’, you’re actually in a big old circle of people who are just looking to communicate and feel non-isolated, because anxiety and depression can isolate a person, and dealing with a person with those two things can be isolating too, so it’s just inclusion.”
The campaign is being supported by other celebrities, including musicians Ed Sheeran and James Arthur, Radio One DJ Adele Roberts, comedian James Corden, TV presenter Dermot O’Leary and Game of Thrones actress Faye Marsay.
But why is the campaign so important?
New YMCA research published today - on World Mental Health Day - reveals that more than one in three 11 to 24-year-olds with mental health difficulties say they experience stigma.
More half said this had come in the form of social exclusion, and a third said they had suffered verbal abuse. They said this hurtful behaviour often originates from their friends.
For the young people in Sussex who took part in the research, stigma also impacts on their willingness to ask for help, with 67 per cent of those who felt stigmatised saying they were less likely to access professional support as a result, and 83 per cent saying it made them less likely to talk to others about their mental health.
Dr Rebecca Jarvis, clinical lead for mental health for NHS Brighton and Hove CCG, said: “The campaign is about breaking down stigma, so in Brighton and Hove we know we have higher than average levels of mental health problems and anxiety, we know we’ve got high levels of suicide and self harm. We know we’ve got good services here but what we haven’t had is a way of reaching out to people in a different way before.
“We know that a lot of the reasons people don’t approach us is because they are not only worried about how we are going to react, but how their family and friends are going to react, so unless we do things differently it’s just going to carry on. Rates of mental health problems are increasing and we need to do something to challenge that, and to challenge ourselves as a society to tackle things in a different way.”
The campaign is one that has been created by young people, for young people.
It aims to do a number of things: to challenge harmful language around mental health; to encourage people to seek help; to show support to those with mental health difficulties; and to promote ways to get help.
The music video for ‘Whole’ features young people from Sussex who have experience of mental health difficulties.
Some of those young people spoke to Sussex Newspapers about why they decided to get involved.
Louise, 17, said: “I really was excited to be involved with this as it’s really important to me. I think young people will respond to social media more than they would any other campaign. I’m hoping it will have a really positive reaction and I think Jordan is a really good spokesperson for this campaign as young people really like him and his music.”
Florence, 16, said: “I got involved through Right Here, a Brighton-based charity which is absolutely excellent. I work as a volunteer and help promote mental health, I started getting involved after having my own experience with mental health, and I just feel that mental health should be normalised in conversation and people should be able to talk openly.
“I feel that a lot of young people think mental health isn’t a normal thing, and they hide away from the subject, but I think this will encourage everyone to say ‘okay, it’s normal’.”
Daisy, 15, said: “There’s not really anything else around that raises awareness for mental health issues, it’s about time someone did something about it. We don’t realise how many people struggle. It’s good just to know someone is there so if you speak out you might help someone else.”
Connie, 22, said: “I had an eating disorder and it went on for so long and it was kept under wraps for so long. After I had been through recovery I just wanted to get people talking about it, because for so long I stopped coming forward because of stigma attached to it.
“People said to me ‘you don’t look ill’, and they were kind of denying me the right to be ill. If you say to someone you’re not ill and they are, it’s a double isolation. Not only are you isolated in terms of your mental health which stops you connecting with people anyway because you’re so down, but then you’ve got this level on top of people being like, you’re not ill. That’s really hard to deal with. That definitely maintains disorders.
“The more you talk about it, and the more you talk about what’s going on with you, and everyone chips in and says I suffer with this too, then you realise it affects everyone, and everyone has to look after their mental health and wellbeing.”
The local NHS and YMCA said they hoped by using the #IAMWHOLE hashtag young people would be encouraged to speak out against mental health stigma.
Chas Walker, chief executive officer of the YMCA Downslink Group, which serves Sussex and Surrey, said: “YMCA’s research backs up conversations we have had with young people in which they have told us mental health is one of the principle worries affecting their generation today. What is alarming from these findings is the widespread stigma young people are now seeing or experiencing from others that is making them less likely to seek professional help.
“That’s why we are encouraging everyone to support #IAMWHOLE to help overcome the stigma we have identified and the negative consequences young people are facing when trying to deal with their mental health difficulties alone.”
Other findings from YMCA’s research in Sussex revealed that 80 per cent of those questioned knew someone who has experienced difficulty with mental health, and that anxiety and depression were the most common mental health conditions experienced by young people.
Young people in Sussex believe stigma is best tackled by talking more about mental health and sharing their experience, and 87 per cent said school is the best place to combat it.
Dr Jarvis explained what the CCG hopes to get out of the campaign, and said although she wants to get people talking about mental health, it is important to use the right language.
She said: “We’re hoping that it will help start that conversation, start breaking down people’s stigma. We hope it will help people to think about their language, and it’s quite interesting becoming involved in the campaign you suddenly notice how much casual language there is around you.
“Calling someone mental or saying that’s crazy or saying they’re a nutter, and it’s all acceptable language, but actually it shouldn’t be because what we know is that that language is one of the barriers that stops people getting help is they think they are going to be labelled.
“It stops people coming forward. We want people to challenge things, we want people to actually be brave enough if they are struggling to talk to someone about it. We want the person who is being talked to to listen, and we want people to access help. The earlier we can get help the earlier we can prevent things.”
To support the campaign, follow the #IAMWHOLE hashtag on social media.
To find out more about mental health services for young people, visit: www.findgetgive.com