MENTAL health is often still seen as a taboo subject.
But with more people diagnosed with such illnesses, a new project has been set up to try to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.
Yesterday, to coincide with national Time to Talk Day, those behind the new scheme were in Oxford city centre to help publicise their cause.
Oxford-based anti-loneliness charity The Archway Foundation and the mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, have been given funding to run an 18-month project, Creative Communication for Changing Perspectives, to involve people in conversations about mental health, across Oxfordshire.
Project officer Louise Longson is looking for people with their own experiences of mental illness to join the campaign.
She said: “With one in four people experiencing mental health distress in any given year, we all know someone who needs our support.
“The Archway Foundation is looking for volunteers aged over 18 with a lived mental health experience, to join us, to have conversations with people attending a special programme of creative events all over Oxfordshire and hopefully break down some of the barriers surrounding mental health.”
Mental illness incorporates a huge variety of conditions, ranging from panic attacks and depression, bi-polar disorder to schizophrenia, and many people struggle to live with its effects alongside the pressure of jobs and raising families.
Throughout the coming year, Creative Communications for Changing Perspectives, which is being funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief, and the Big Lottery Fund, will join established projects like Art Weeks and also work with Dance Mania and Oxford Brookes University to stage its own art exhibitions and workshops, theatre, dance, creative writing and poetry, to get people talking about mental health problems.
Caroline Knight, 26, from Oxford, has signed up as a volunteer with the project.
Diagnosed with depression last summer, she now runs ‘pop-up’ cake stalls as part of a nationwide movement called The Depressed Cake Shop.
She said: “Looking back, I have had problems since I was 16 and was sitting my GCSEs. But it wasn’t actually until last July, that I realised I suffered from depression.
“Realising I had depression, that I had options and that above all I could speak about it, was like a tremendous weight being lifted off my shoulders.
“I think a lot of people who have depression feel they don’t want to scare people away from them.
“That’s why I am so excited about being part of this project to give people a better understanding, but also to show them that they can seek help and also give it.
“It’s going to be great connecting with people and really feel like I am making a difference.”
Volunteers will receive full training, support and travel expenses.
To find out more, call Louise Longson on 01865 790552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org