On combating stigma and encouraging social action

The groups have enabled there to be some challenge to stigma associated with mental health services. One member of Thinking about Medication, having reduced her dose of anti-psychotic medication, commented: ‘I used to think of myself as a schizophrenic but this group has really opened my eyes…I now think of myself as a woman.’ Participants with no history of mental health service involvement have commented on attaining greater understanding and less fear of people with ‘psychotic’ diagnoses or histories of admissions to the psychiatric hospital. As one participant put it: ‘It was so good to realise that in spite of or because of all our faults and failings we are all mortal and members of the human race and it’s ok not to be scared of those who live and express themselves differently.’ Examples of social action include: the lobbying of drug companies to manufacture drugs in doses that would better assist tapered withdrawal; feeding back difficult experiences of taking and trying to come off medication to mental health professionals; meeting local politicians as part of a campaign to protect from development the area where Walk and Talk takes place and to ensure greater access for the local community. A loose nexus of people who have met on these courses support each other and have set up their own groups, projects and campaigns that run without any professional involvement. Group members, many with considerable histories of psychiatric service involvement, have described the groups at conferences and training events and have gone to other parts of Britain and inspired and assisted other groups to set up. For example, The Living with Medication group was set up in Leicester after inviting participants and facilitators from the Thinking about Medication group in Shrewsbury to give a talk about this group. It in turn helped another medication group in Nottingham to set up - The MIND Medication Group. In addition several Walk and Talk groups have sprung up around the country, and Walk and Talk has been part of a wider movement locally and nationally towards combining the benefits of walking, accessing green areas and meeting with other people in your local community.

Holmes, G. (2010) The potential for community-based groupwork to counter the effects of stigma. Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy