A Scottish video created last year to raise awareness of mental health issues is growing an enormous following. The powerful film takes audiences on the thought train of someone going through mental illness and it's certainly got people talking.
Campaigns to increase awareness of mental illness often focus on educating people on common experiences and ways of providing support. They've been useful in getting people to understand the basics of prevalent types of mental illnesses, including their signs and symptoms.
At the same time increased awareness hasn't eradicated stigma. Almost half of respondents in a survey commissioned by the Scottish government in 2014 said that, if they had a mental health problem, they wouldn't want anyone else to know.
While mental health seems to be more commonly discussed in the popular media, awareness campaigns haven't always been able to directly convey what it feels like to be a person who has a mental illness. Information about mental health is always valuable but, without insight into the reality, it is always going to be difficult to relate to those with mental illness. Likewise it can be hard for people living with mental illness to trust that they'll be truly understood.
A video which promotes understanding, "The Power of OK," was made last year by Ian Greenhill and Jordan Laird of Something Something production company, in conjunction with See Me, a Scottish programme dedicated to eradicating mental health discrimination. "The Power of OK" has recently gone viral, boasting 150,000 views over the space of a day.
The monologue poetically captures the frenzy of worry and the capacity to get stuck in anxious thoughts. However the speaker is able to zoom out, away from his problems, and wonders if others ever have similar experiences. Simply asking someone whether they're OK opens a line of communication to share a common experience, he concludes.
Mental health problems are a common experience. Despite the stigma, one in four people in England are likely to experience mental illness over a given year, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Asking someone "are you OK?" is a small step. Other steps are clearly necessary in building healthy communities, such as increased funding for services which have been severely cut in the U.K. But that simple conversation starter can be so important. It shows that you care, that you want to listen and that you are willing to try to understand.
The video is so effective at getting this message across because it puts the person undergoing distress at the centre. The audience gets a short but valuable glimpse into what it's like to have a mind full of runaway worries attuned to the judgement of others. They also get a clear grasp of how powerful the simple question "are you OK?" can be.
February 4 is the Time to Change campaign's Time to Talk Day, to encourage people to open up about mental health issues to raise awareness and tackles stigma. Find out more about #TimetoTalk here.
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