Wendy Halliday is the director of See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

OCTOBER marked the 20th birthday of See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Twenty years of engaging people living with mental ill health, challenging the status quo and empowering people to stand up and speak out against the unfair treatment of people with mental health problems – it’s been an incredible journey so far.

A lot has changed in the time that See Me has been around. Thanks to the work of our partners, supporters, amazing volunteers and staff teams, we’ve made real progress in shifting attitudes and changing behaviours around mental health.

Our most recent polling shows that eight in 10 Scots think that their own attitudes towards mental health have improved in the last 20 years. Things are moving in the right direction, but we know there’s still more to do.

Certain groups continue to experience mental health stigma. People with long-term, enduring mental illnesses, for example, face stigma regularly, and often from those closest to them.

The Scottish Mental Illness Stigma Study, which we published in September, showed that nine in 10 people with experience of complex mental illness have faced stigma and discrimination in their relationships with family and friends. Eight in 10 experienced stigma in healthcare services.

Imagine not being able to get support in the places where you would expect to find it.

And it’s not just those with the most complex mental illnesses who are treated unfairly. People from ethnic minority communities, people within the LGBTQ+ community, men, young people – these are all groups who continue to fear speaking out.

We need to do more to ensure that everyone, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or where they’re from, can talk about their mental health, reach out and get help when they’re struggling. It’s important too that we do more to support culture and behaviour change in the settings where people continue to experience high levels of stigma as a result of their mental health.

It’s my hope that in 20 years’ time, we won’t need See Me – that people will be able to speak freely and openly about their mental health, and be treated with compassion and respect when they do.

We have a lot of work to do to get there, and See Me can’t do it alone.

While we get to work influencing systems and services, my birthday wish for See Me is for everyone in Scotland to make a commitment to do what they can to shift attitudes, tackle prejudice and make places and spaces more inclusive for anyone experiencing mental ill health.

To be mindful of their language when talking about mental health.

To ask others how they are, and listen to what they have to say.

And to show kindness, compassion and understanding when people are struggling.

When I see how far we’ve come over the last 20 years, I know that the people of Scotland can create real and lasting change.

Let’s work together and make mental health stigma a thing of the past.