Mental health campaign director responds to criticism

The director of a campaign set up with the intention of removing any stigma from the experience of mental ill-health has responded to criticism of her organisation’s tactics.

Suzie Vestri, campaign director at ‘see me’, was replying to the comments of Harold A. Maio, a retired mental health editor from Florida, who told The Buteman that by repeating the assertion that society in general stigmatises people who have experienced mental ill-health, the ‘see me’ campaign was only making the situation worse.

Mr Maio made his comments in response to a report on of Argyll and Bute Council’s signing last week of a pledge to work to remove the stigma of mental ill-health.

Mr Maio said: “Some people experience prejudice. Some people experience this specific prejudice. When was that not true? Claiming we all do is irresponsible at best, and deliberately destructive if not.”

Ms Vestri replied: “It is possible to provide many examples of discrimination against people with mental ilness. Indeed, examples and testimony to this arrive unsolicited to the ‘see me’ campaign on most days.

“To tell people about this prejudice does not perpetuate it. It opens our eyes to poor practice, and the hurtful impact of that practice. It does not seek to imply that every individual discriminates, however it does open our hearts and intentions to the fact that each of us, as corporate organisations and individuals, has the power to do something positive about it.

“To identify injustice and to speak out about it does not perpetuate the injustice. Rather, silence about injustice can aid it, leaving the 58 per cent of Scots with mental illness who experience social exclusion and discrimination to deal with matters ourselves.

“Saying that there is racism, or age-related discrimination, is without doubt true, but this is not taken to mean that everyone is guilty of enacting it; rather the statement acts to make us realise that, while we may not all be part of the problem, we can all be part of the solution.”