A Glasgow woman whose brother tragically died is raising awareness of mental health and the stigma attached to it as part of a new campaign. 

Jenn Barnes is working with charity See Me on their programme, See Us, launching today to help tackle mental health discrimination. 

The 34-year-old, who lost her brother Calum to suicide in 2017, started volunteering with See Me over four years ago. 

Calum had previously been involved with the organisation, through some spoken-word adverts and various campaigns supporting people with mental illnesses. 

Jenn said: “We didn't know as a family that he had been doing this, and then unfortunately, his own mental health wasn't very good at the time as well. I think going forward I just knew that doing something with See Me would carry on Calum's legacy.

Jenn, who volunteers as a media ambassador, also struggled with mental health as a teen. 

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“When I was younger, I had been through a stage where I didn't really know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was a bit confused about where I wanted to go in my life and from there I sort of spiralled out of control.

“I had stopped eating and my parents were very worried about me. There had been an event a couple of years prior that had led to it and I hadn't told anyone about it. 

“At the time, mental health was quite a taboo subject. If you said that you were off work because you were feeling anxious or depressed your workplace would have not looked too kindly on it.”

For Jenn, the pandemic has helped open people’s eyes on the realities of mental illness, but there is still a long way to go. 

“Especially with everyone being off work for a full year, being furloughed or being made redundant, now more than ever there's probably a bit more of an understanding, but I think there is still work to do,” she said. 

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Research from See Me revealed more than half of Scots say their own perceptions of mental health have improved in the last ten years. 

However, the same survey found more than two-thirds of people with mental health problems still experience stigma or discrimination – most commonly from friends, family and colleagues.

“I think a lot of people don't think that it will ever happen to them or to anyone that they know, especially if they're coming from a sort of rough, tough, working class background in Glasgow,” said Jenn.  

“I think in certain contexts people still brush it off as just having a bad day, but sometimes that can turn into a bad week, and then things can spiral quite quickly.”

Glasgow Times: Liam Rankin, Tommy Kelly, Chloe Whyte, Osama Nadeem from See MeLiam Rankin, Tommy Kelly, Chloe Whyte, Osama Nadeem from See Me

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To help people get involved and tackle mental health stigma and discrimination, See Me has launched a new home for the social movement on their website, with resources to help make a change.

Jenn added: “See Us is a sort of hub that will signpost people in lots of different directions for specific issues, including eating disorders or anxiety around money.

“Knowing where to go is a good start and also knowing the signs to look out for - changes in a person's attitude or in their personality, a life-changing event -, and not being scared to have a conversation, that can make a difference. 

“I think, not seeing it as a phase is really important because, going back to my brother, that's what we thought, he had lost a friend when he was younger, and I thought it was just something that he was going through. I never realised just how hard it had been for him.”

Glasgow Times: See Me's See Us campaign launchSee Me's See Us campaign launch