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Challenging the stigma of mental health

STIGMA: Renowned Jamaican-born poet Jean Binta Breeze was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her 20s

THE STIGMA of mental health is being challenged head on with a groundbreaking project running in Birmingham for the next six weeks by the UK’s leading mental health campaign Time to Change.

Those who have suffered mental health issues bravely stepped up to the microphone to talk about their experiences during the launch of ‘Forget the Label… Just Listen’ at The Drum, the UK’s biggest Black-led arts centre.

Renowned Jamaican-born poet Jean Binta Breeze, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her 20s, kicked off the project with reading of some of her most popular verses, including Riddym Ravings, also known as the Mad Woman.

Binta Breeze, who is now in her 50s, said: “I suffered with mental health all my life and it’s only in the past 12 years that I have found the right treatment that helps me.

“I would say to anyone who is suffering, seek help and don’t give up until you find a treatment that suits you. It took me more than 25 years.”

At the launch, hosted by BBC Radio WM presenter Nikki Tapper, Birmingham’s own mental health champion Councillor Paulette Hamilton spoke of how she experienced stigma at first hand when she lost a cousin recently after she took her own life.

She said: “In the African Caribbean community we celebrate life at a wake, but at my cousin’s funeral no one knew what to say to each other. She had been living with mental health problems for years. The tragic situation here, like so many others, is we did not change what we could have challenged.

HEALTH CHAMPION: Councillor Paulette Hamilton spoke of how she experienced stigma at first hand when she lost a cousin recently

“Lack of knowledge leads to stigma and we need to change that by educating the next generation.”

Time to Change mental health champions talked of how they had come back from the brink and in doing so experienced discrimination in the workplace or from people who simply didn’t know what to say to them.

Former soldier Necola Hall, who served in the British Army in Iraq, told how she overcame depression following a miscarriage and bullying within the Army. She has now written an inspiring autobiography called ‘I Was a Soldier’ which tells of how she overcame her mental hurdles.

Time to Change’s six-week social marketing campaign in Birmingham will be present at several local events which include: Jean Binta Breeze in conversation with US poet Tracie Morris at The Drum on Wednesday October 22 from 7.30pm.

On Monday November 3, Jamjah Sounds System will play at the Bulls Head, St Mary’s Row, Moseley, from 8pm. Wednesday November 11th is Gospel Central at the Jam House, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham’s longest running Gospel event.

On Thursday November 13 is CollabLab, the place to see the very best young singers, bands and poets in Birmingham at Chameleon, Victoria Square.

And on Sunday November 30th Time to Change will be present at the Sunday service at the New Testament Church of God in George Street, Lozells.

For further information contact Sandra Griffiths – 07745 392 318.

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