At a time when politics is in everyone’s mind and given that mental health is a policy priority for all the major political parties, it is worth asking how well people with mental health problems are represented in public life – and what is stopping people in these circumstances seeking election or appointment to public bodies such as school boards, tenants associations, local councils and national parliaments.
A NEW project is aiming to break down some of the barriers which prevent people from getting involved in public life when they are struggling with their mental health.
Public Life Matters is working to make sure that people with lived experience of mental ill health can become more involved in their communities and combat the isolation that people can face.
It’s being led by a group of researchers who has experienced difficulties with their own mental health, to help others seeking public office or becoming more involved in community groups, church groups, parent/teacher associations, local authorities, and even voting.
Research shows that becoming more involved in your community can help recovery from mental illness, by widening our life experiences and connections and giving us a new purpose.
As mental health is now getting much greater political attention, it is hoped the project will open up opportunities for people with mental health conditions to become engaged in civic and public life.
People can take part in the project, which has been funded through a Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning grant, by taking part in an initial survey. There will also be follow-up focus groups taking place across Scotland to build on the initial findings.
Michel Syrett, a leading member of the Lived Experience Research Consortium, which is conducting the research, stresses that the project needs a large response from people with lived experience of mental health problems to pinpoint what initiatives are needed to ensure better representation of their needs at both a local and national level – and to encourage more people with lived experience into playing an active role in their local and national communities.
GAMH is supporting the drive for a high response by highlighting the aims of the project at local meetings and helping potential respondents to complete the survey.
To access the questionnaire being used by the survey, which is easy to complete and asks basic questions about respondent’s aspirations for an active public life and the barriers they face in meeting these, visit: tinyurl.com/publiclifescot
For further information on the project, contact Voices of eXperience (VOX) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; or get involved in the conversation on Twitter: #publiclifescot