We must talk more openly about our mental health

Support in Mind Scotland's one in 100 mental health fundraising and awareness campaign has been launched for the summer, prompting the obvious question: Why one in 100?

Scott and Jenny Hastings are backing Support in Mind and pounding the streets for the one in 100 campaign. Picture: Julie Bull
Scott and Jenny Hastings are backing Support in Mind and pounding the streets for the one in 100 campaign. Picture: Julie Bull

Our title one in 100 represents the 
1 per cent of the population who suffer from serious mental ill health, while another well-aired statistic – one person in four – is commonly referenced as the proportion of people who will experience mental illness during their lives.

These are bold, yet bald figures. They merely summarise rather than accurately record just how prevalent mental health issues are in a society still sadly confronted with stigma and prejudice.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

If one in four is the generally accepted figure of the number of people suffering from mental ill health, then the percentage affected by the issue is vastly higher.

Mental health touches and affects the lives of friends, family, carers, colleagues and classmates too. Indeed, most, if not all, of us will know someone who has suffered from some form of mental illness. On that basis, the 99 in 100 who do not suffer themselves from should not lack the motivation and compassion to help, or at the very least try and understand, the one in 100 who do.

We have been fortunate to find a high-profile supporter for our one in 100 campaign in Scott Hastings, the Scotland rugby great who now commentates for Sky and ITV.

As someone who has first-hand experience of living with mental illness, Hastings found the motivation and compassion to get behind our campaign. For 20 years, his wife Jenny has suffered from episodes of mental ill health and the couple take each day as it comes.

Celebrity endorsement can be invaluable to third sector organisations, but it works particularly well when there is a strong emotional connection between the individual and the charity’s cause.

Standing before television cameras to talk about mental health and the one in 100 campaign, Scott Hastings displayed the same brand of passion he took with him on to the Murrayfield turf in 1990 for the famous Grand Slam-clinching victory against England.

With no pre-agreed script or prompts, he spoke straight from the heart about our campaign and the importance of investing in mental health facilities such as The Stafford Centre – our successful resource centre in Edinburgh which acted as a fitting backdrop for our one in 100 campaign launch.

However, what made Scott’s involvement extra special for us was that Jenny was there by his side. Together, they talked about how Jenny’s bouts of depression are part of their lives and of those of their two children. Just because you can’t see a mental illness it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, said Scott, and it is time mental health is given the same level of understanding as physical health.

It wasn’t easy for Jenny to be there, talking candidly about her own struggles, but she said later that she found the experience inspirational.

Jenny said: “I wanted to do something to say thank you to the people who have helped me and to help anyone going through this.

“The kids talk about it very openly but our generation and people who are a bit older find it harder. People say there is nothing wrong with you. It is a very difficult place but the support is important. It is about supporting people and making others aware of it too.”

The Hastings evidently recognise the importance of receiving support, and we are enormously grateful for the support they have given us through their backing for one in 100.

Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked, and one key challenge within our one in 100 campaign for people to run or walk 100 miles in 100 days, or for the more active – including the Hastings family – 100 streets in one day.

Scott said: “We both know the importance of the links between physical exercise and the benefits that brings to mental health.

“Walking or jogging helps keep Jenny well and the one in 100 campaign gives everyone a target to aim for. This is such a simple thing to do and can make such a difference.”

This campaign is not just for the one in 100 or the one in four. It is a campaign for everyone and anyone who wants to improve mental, emotional and physical well being.

l To get involved in one in 100 or support the walking and running challenge please call Support in Mind Scotland on 0131 662 4359 or email: [email protected]

l Colin Leslie is fundraising manager for Support in Mind Scotland