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Public Life MattersNEWS

Putting Mental Health Centre Stage in Public Life

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.

Benj McElwee, a member of the project, said: “With the snap General Election announced this year mental health has been thrust into the spotlight as a priority for all parties.

“Public Life Matters aims to identify, and inspire solutions to, the barriers that might prevent or deter people with mental health conditions from realising these new opportunities.

“Findings from the research project will be summarised in a report which will be distributed to MSPs, civil servants, government ministers, interested charities and voluntary groups, the media and the general public.

“The report will include recommendations as to how people with lived experience can be encouraged and supported to play a greater role in the public life of their local communities.”

To take part in the research project, people can fill in the survey: tinyurl.com/publiclifescot

For further information on the project, contact Voices of eXperience (VOX) by emailing info@voxscotland.org.uk; or get involved in the conversation on Twitter: #publiclifescot

Disability Research in Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) is a UK-wide Research Project which delivers the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people. It is a Big Lottery Fund that in Scotland is administered by Inclusion Scotland.

Public Life Matters is run by a partnership led by VOX (Voices of eXperience), Scotlands national collective advocacy organisation for people with lived experience of mental ill health. Importantly, the research will be carried out by the Lived Experience Research Consortium: people who have their own lived experiences of mental health issues. Additional expert support and advice will be supplied by The Mental Health Foundation and the University of Strathclydes Centre for Health Policy.

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