Tuesday, May 1st marked the beginning of the See Change Green Ribbon campaign.
The Green Ribbon campaign is all about starting a conversation about mental health and stomping out stigma.
Collins Dictionary describes stigma as follows – ‘If something has a stigma attached to it, people think it is something to be ashamed of.’ Historically this has been the case with mental health and mental illness but thankfully people like those at See Change are working hard to change this! The Green Ribbon campaign is urging people to talk to change minds about mental health one conversation at a time.
If you’re not used to speaking about mental health it can be daunting but as See Change say ‘You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health.’ If you pick up a free Green Ribbon you’ll see some tips on the back of the packet:
- Talk, but listen too.
- Keep in touch, remind them you care
- Be patient
- don’t just talk about mental health, talk about other things too.
I’d like to share my own Green Ribbon story with you.
I began experiencing mental health difficulties as a child. Eventually I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder and Depression*. My mam was supportive in that she went to my appointments with me and she would sit with me if I was upset but conversation around mental health didn’t really happen, everything was a bit hush-hush.
Now, I know that she thought she was protecting me. My mam feared that by speaking out about my own experiences I would be bullied. She also found mental health difficult to talk about because of the stigma attached to it that she experienced growing up – talking about mental health difficulties just wasn’t something that was done.
Then, one day she came home with a green ribbon on her coat. That little ribbon changed so much. It opened up conversation between us, it allowed us to talk about things we had never spoken about before yet desperately needed to. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes there were tears involved but it was so, so worth it.
Now, every year we not only make a point of getting green ribbons to wear ourselves but also one or two extra for anyone who we cross paths with who is interested. As I mentioned in a previous post we now speak about our mental health in the same way we speak about our physical health. Saying “I’m struggling today, I need to take some time out.” is no different than saying “I have a migraine, I need to go lie down for a while”. That little green ribbon changed a whole lot and I’ll be forever grateful for it.
If you’d like to get involved you’ll find Green Ribbons in all Boots stores and Irish Rail stations nationwide free of charge. There are loads of other ways to support the campaign too – to find out more visit the See Change site, visit them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
You can join the conversation using #greenribbonirl and take part in #TimeToTalk Day on May 4th across social media.
*Not everyone experiencing a mental health difficulty will be diagnosed with a mental illness.