See Me is out to change attitudes

Councillor Gemma Welsh.
Councillor Gemma Welsh.

Glasgow needs to get its priorities straight and allow people to speak out about their mental health problems and get help.

That is the belief of See Me, the national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

See Me will be using 2016 to focus on making positive changes in workplaces, health and social care and with children and young people.

Labour councillor Gemma Welsh is backing the move.

The politician sought help from her GP due to suffering suicidal thoughts — but was told she was not ill as she had clean hair and clothes.

Gemma finally got the help she needed, but only with the assisstance of a friends who had asked if she was doing okay and encouraged her to speak about how she was feeling.

Gemma (24), from Kirkintilloch, had isolated herself from those around her; she doubted how she was feeling and questioned if she was really unwell.

But a friend came to the rescue and talked Gemma into getting help.

Gemma said: “I was away from home at university and I went to the doctor because my friend convinced me to go.

“She recognised I wasn’t doing well and asked me what was wrong.

“I felt that I could open up to her.

“The step to going to the doctor was daunting. I told her I was having suicidal thoughts and had de[pression.

“I told her I had it before andrecognised how I was feeling.

“The GP spent five minutes listening to me and my concerns.

“After this she sat back and said: ‘You’ve got clean hair, you’re wearing clean clothes, I really don’t think you’re depressed.’

“When you’re suicidal you feel nothing will change or get better.

“To have a doctor confirm that makes it worse.”

On her return home, her friends asked how she was doing, and encouraged Gemma to go back and see a different doctor.

Gemma continued: “If it wasn’t for my friend asking if I was okay, and really listening, then I wouldn’t have got help.

“One thing I struggled with is how isolating depression can be, I completely removed myself.

“When someone broke through that, and really wanted to know if I was okay, that helped me to get better.”

Judith Robertson, the programme director for See Me, said: “Gemma’s story shows that you don’t have to be an expert to speak about mental health, just asking someone if they are okat can be a powerful thing.

“This year, if you see someone is struggling or you’re worried about their mental health, don’t shy away, ask them if they are okay — and really listen to them.”