Opportunity or segregation?

Today we celebrate the 20th World Mental Health Day, which aims to raise public awareness about mental health issues.  Rhian Thompson, Age Scotland’s new Digital Communications Officer, asks whether themed awareness days are opportunities, or just reinforce segregation. 

With one in four of us affected by mental health issues at some stage in our lives, World Mental Health Day is meant to promote open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services.

This last week saw Older People’s Day pop up in the calendar and the responses on Twitter and Facebook got me thinking .

It is interesting to find out people’s reactions to these ‘International Days of… ‘. We found on Facebook this week that some people find them divisive and question why the need for these.  There is a view expressed that by using such labels can be exclude people from general society, categorising them outside of the ‘norm’. Reacting to a post about Monday’s Older People’s Day and International Day of Older Persons, one of our friends said, ‘I’m still just a human person!’ .Others made a joke of it, questioning if it was April 1st already or asking if there were greetings cards available in the shops.

On the other hand these days can be really helpful to connect communities and groups and provide a platform for people to share ideas and experiences, celebrate achievements and to highlight issues that affect them. One example is the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival who have as a theme this year, ‘walk in my shoes’ . The festival provides a programme of theatre, film, music, workshops and exhibitions all over Scotland.

But once this month is over, what next? While it shouldn’t be necessary to have a day especially for people with mental health issues, women, older people etc. perhaps it is too good an opportunity to be missed? 

As a one day diary it can feel like a condescending pat on the head, however with a lot of effort and organisation, maybe these dates can be transformed into something truly inspirational.

Find out what is happening at The Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival http://www.mhfestival.com/events.php?clear=all

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