Celebrities to help end stigma of mental illnesses
A HOST of celebrities will publicly speak about their battles with mental health problems in the biggest-ever campaign aimed tackling the stigma around the issue.
The well-known faces taking part include broadcaster George Hook, actress Mary McEvoy (best known as 'Biddy' in 'Glenroe') and singer Francis Black. RTE newsreaders Eileen Dunne and Michael Murphy will also speak about their experiences.
GAA players will promote awareness about mental health difficulties in their home counties, with the support of the Gaelic Players Association.
The aim of the "See Change" campaign, to be launched in two weeks' time, is to reduce the stigma people feel about having a mental health problem -- such as depression -- and to encourage them to seek help.
Junior Minister for Mental Health John Moloney said people were crying out for something to be done about the problem.
"Everywhere you go the evidence is that if people sought intervention, they can be helped. We're trying to hammer home that message by getting people who have made a name for themselves to come forward," he said.
The campaign will include town hall meetings, a new website, a national poster campaign and visits by celebrities to schools. The target budget for the campaign this year is €500,000, which will be raised from public and private sources.
Mr Moloney, who has spoken publicly about how he overcame stress and depression, said he hoped the "See Change" campaign would help to reduce the high number of suicides.
"I've seen too many over the years as an undertaker, I've seen what suicide has done to people. I also know a fair bit could have been avoided if people weren't afraid to go and look for support," he said.
According to the Central Statistics Office, 228 people took their lives in the first six months of last year. This was a 35pc increase on the 169 people in the same period in 2008.
The "See Change" campaign will be officially launched in the Mansion House in Dublin on April 15 by 'PrimeTime' presenter Miriam O'Callaghan.
The campaign director John Saunders, who is also the chairman of Supporting People Affected by Mental Ill Health (SHINE), said it was very important to break the stigma.
"People are very worried about their jobs, they're worried about their mortgages and interest rates. Those sort of economic uncertainties put huge emotional and psychological pressure on people," he said.
Mr Saunders said the use of celebrities who had achieved success despite their mental health problems was a key part of the campaign.
"The message there is that many people have mental health problems but that people can deal with them, can recover, can make very valuable contributions to society and in some cases, can excel in that. This is why we want to focus on using famous names and faces," he said.