Shatter the Stigma
Stigma: a mark of shame or discredit associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
When applied to mental health, the resulting trauma not only has a negative impact on someone’s wellbeing but also creates a potential barrier to accessing much needed care and support.
When moving into a lived-experience role within Mackay Hospital and Health Service’s (HHS) Division of Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Service, Debbie Lattimore was asked to deliver a presentation about stigma to the local Emergency Department. It was in that moment, that the Shatter the Stigma campaign was born.
Over the following four years, Debbie delivered the presentation to over 2000 people, having such a great impact they started producing T-shirts and pledge cards in support of shattering stigma. As the campaign started to grow in prominence, the team at Wide Bay HHS approached Debbie about implementing something similar locally.
From that spark in Mackay, the campaign exploded across Wide Bay, with people unable to walk through a facility without seeing some form of shatter the stigma messaging. Not only does it let patients know that they are safe and welcome, but it has also created an environment where staff feel valued and protected to seek help without judgement.
What started out with T-shirts and pledges has grown to champions networks and executive support which is driving grassroots change that is transforming their entire service into a stigma free zone.
Stigma affects all of us, so join the campaign to Shatter the Stigma and be the change we need.
Shatter the Stigma - video transcript
Hello. I'm John Allan. I'm the executive director of the Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch for Queensland Health. And I am pleased to support the Shatter The Stigma campaign for Queensland Health. Shatter The Stigma makes us aware of the negative impact that stigma about mental health, alcohol or drug issues can have on people and how it affects their lives, their families and their recovery.
The more we can reduce this stigma, the easier it is for people to talk about their mental health issues and their drug and alcohol challenges, and then to get the help that they might need by committing to Shatter The Stigma, we begin a sustainable movement that looks to change the way that we think about these things: our workplace culture and public perception.
So I invite you to join with me to Shatter The Stigma.
My name's Deb Lattimore and I'm the peer team leader for the Mackay Division of Mental Health, Alcohol and other Drugs. My role is an identified lived experience role. I work closely with all the clinical teams and really the whole division providing a consumer lens into all aspects of service delivery. I worked for Mackay Base Hospital just in a business manager position.
I felt like I was missing something in those roles. I was looking for something more meaningful and so I started to explore what roles might be available in mental health. And these roles now, they actually call you to speak up and share your lived experience to promote hope and encourage others. Hi, everyone. How are you? And today we're going to talk about shattering mental health stigma.
I'm very passionate about stigma. I've experienced a lot of it myself, and I know the impact that it has on individuals, their families, their relationships, their employment opportunities, everything in their life. And it's something I'm really serious about trying to be part of, breaking it down and shattering them. I think I've delivered the presentation about 90 times to around 2000 people, both health service and external, and over the first couple of years it evolved quite a bit.
I had the idea of extending it and just asking if this could be something that would be endorsed by executives so that it could be rolled out to all divisions in the hospital. Could we have a T-shirt? Could we have something where it starts these conversations and continue this on. And it sort of morphed from not just trying to benefit the mental health clients, but more just everybody in the health service and just trying to change the way we view mental illness.
Shame, blame, hopelessness, distress, misrepresentation. And a really big one is the reluctance to seek or accept help. You worry about what's going to happen with work. How am I going to pay the bills? Am I going to lose my job? What's my wife going to think? What will my children think of me? That's a really significant impact of stigma, is that these stigmatizing views in society of what we believe mental illness means for a person, stops them from going out and getting help early, which therefore often compounds their symptoms, compounds what's happening, and can lead to having a much more significant long term mental health challenges that are a lot harder and take a lot more time to get over.
It's really created lots of conversation and that for me is probably the most significant part because that's what I always believed is I can't be the only staff member here that has felt like I felt in a big workplace, not good enough purely because of a mental health background, and lost years in a psych ward and all that, and scars on my arms and all those things that come with that. I just didn’t believe I could be the only one.
In that first 12 months was a lot of presentations. There were moments where I kind of just didn't want to be part of it anymore because it was sort of it was quite intense there for a while in the beginning. I was supported within the mental health division by the Ops Director and clinical director at the time, and so I did a business case and just sort of put it out to endorse the initiative, to allow the shirts to be made, to allow staff to wear the shirts to work and for the education to be endorsed, to be delivered as people wanted to hear it.
I'm extremely proud. And to see what other people have done with it, like Wide Bay have done things that I hadn't even thought of. So I'm working very closely with the team in Wide Bay now for us to streamline everything and make it all available to all HHS in Queensland so that people can really easily access all the resources, all the branding, the concepts and then do what they choose to do in their health service with it.
But maintaining that consistent message where it started.
I'm Fiona Prescott, the business manager for Mental Health and Specialised Services at Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service. And that covers Bundaberg, Maryborough, Harvey Bay and the rural areas of the Wide Bay. I've worked at Mental Health for 18 years and it's just such a great place to work and really feel passionate about making a difference.
What you've done with it in Wide Bay is just phenomenal and you should be so proud and I'm very jealous at times, but also really, really thankful that you've done what you've done with it is just brilliant.
We really felt that we could implement a campaign that would be sustainable, not just within mental health, but across our whole health service, that if we educated our staff and gave support and awareness for mental health illness, and challenges to all of our staff, then they could make a difference no matter where they worked within our organization and would really make a bigger, sustainable impact for our consumers.
We know that stigma comes from lack of awareness or lack of understanding of something. So if we can multiple times and many layers continually provide education or information and awareness to people, then they'll gradually make a change or be more aware of it. Having posters, having the pledge cards and having it every month and every day in everything we do. We were pondering what we could do and we'd heard the stories.
We'd had our consumers feedback, and we were wanting to do something, but really quite unsure about what that actually could look like. And then, you know, seeing the shirt and being that conversation starter and reaching out to Debbie and having the sharing and the willingness of Debbie and her team to be able to share that with our team has been really appreciated.
It's great that resources were shared. You know, in the past there was a lot of siloing within HHS’s and, you know, it was like reinventing the wheel. And that's what didn't need to happen. Because of Debbie we didn't need to reinvent the wheel. We could build on what she had initially come up with and what she was doing, and that's what Wide Bay have done.
I think everybody in our committee and our team and all of our 50 champions all contribute to that. So it's not about, you know, as we’re moving forward, it's not about Debbie or me or whoever it is. It is really about the difference that we're making.
Just came to see how things were going, and you’ve got a moment to catch up with me Addy? Yeah, sure. Sounds good.
The space is really beautiful, isn't it?
It is. Yeah. It's really coming along nicely.
So welcoming. Yeah. And the artwork’s amazing. Yeah.
So stigma is not always just about the words or the language you use. It's about environment and behaviours. So, you know, have you seen the crisis support space environment helping with stigma?
Yeah. So especially from my own experience going to E.D. you know, with my mental health challenges quite a lot over the years, the hustle and bustle, it's the waiting times and you sort of just get put in a room in a white box sort of thing. They're not very personable, not very relaxing, and it's not very welcoming.
So this crisis support space - the Oasis - here at Hervey Bay is one of the busiest crisis support space across the state. Why do you think that is?
Yeah, it's obviously a service that was much needed, you know, as an alternative to E.D. And I think that's where I think we're actually one of the only services that are open from 16 years and older. Yes, that's true. So quite a lot of consumers that we see are 16, 17 now.
It's a great service and definitely really positive for the consumers, but also the relationships between the mental health team and the emergency department staff. Yeah. And the willingness of the Hervey Bay emergency department staff to get on board with this project is I think what's led to the success really. Yeah. Yeah. And them being really on board from the very beginning.
So it's a really good collaborative service that does help break down the stigma.
Yeah. Well done. Yeah.
Our first priority was to educate our HHS staff and then that would have great consumer impacts. I think we'd like to see that taken more to the community now, but also liking to see it linking with other HHS’s. So being able to to link in as a community across the state and share the information that we have and be able to provide that in a more uniform way to provide our resources to other agencies can take it off as little or as much as I would like, but I think why I could have done it as well about our SIA support and also our executive director of mental health services, Robyn Bradley.
She has been very supportive of the program from the very beginning and is, you know, without that support, it does make it hard to embed it and become sustainable.
For me, it was without reason that we needed to do something in terms of shattering mental health stigma, because that's where our main consumer group is. And, you know, access to services is incredibly important. The key ingredients have been the engagement of staff because it is important to our staff. I think one of the other key things is you can't underestimate that this needs to be resourced. Resources in time, but also resources in terms of how we share that message.
And so for us, that's been some of the I guess some of the t shirts and some of the promotional material that we use to get that message out more broadly, but also the opportunity to go out into the community and share that message as well. While it's been great and it's really taken off here in the Wide Bay, I think the opportunity for us to broaden those conversations beyond the health service because realistically it's around, you know, the reason we've got the campaign is around access to services early access to services, people feeling able to come forward and receive the services that they need.
So I think if we can broaden it into the community so that people don't feel afraid to talk to their neighbour, don't feel afraid to bring it up with a family member so that they can have those earlier conversations.
For more information about Shatter The Stigma and how you can be the change locally, please visit the Clinical Excellence Showcase website.
Listen to our podcast on creating safe, stigma free environments for people with a mental health diagnosis.
Visit the Shatter the Stigma page on the improvement exchange to learn more about setting up the service.
Shatter the Stigma
Learn more on Wide Bay's approach to reducing stigma connected to mental illness and empowering more people to seek support.
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