​NI writer Louise Kennedy backs new mental health initiative

​​Author of the award-winning novel Trespasses, Louise Kennedy, recently joined mental health activists, practitioners and others, to launch a ground-breaking new movement for mental health, New Script for Mental Health.
Writer Louise Kennedy is backing the mental health initiativeWriter Louise Kennedy is backing the mental health initiative
Writer Louise Kennedy is backing the mental health initiative

New Script for Mental Health aims to promote and facilitate conversations across society around what a better approach to mental health could look like, and in turn, to make that collective vision a reality.

It is a grassroots movement, led by people with lived experience of trauma and who, for over a decade, have spearheaded campaigns to address systemic failures in the existing mental health system.

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Drawing on personal experience, Louise Kennedy explained why she is supporting New Script for Mental Health,

“A last-minute decision to join a writing group did more to improve my mental health than years of taking anti-depressants.

"The 'here's a prescription, away you go' approach is not enough and this campaign for 'A New Script' is timely and vital.”

New Script for Mental Health believes that the current, “highly medicalised and individualised approach to mental health” is failing to address the causes of trauma and emotional distress, and respond appropriately. It said this approach often causes harm to those seeking help, and to staff delivering services.

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It said the recent Covid pandemic has only deepened a “pre-existing mental health crisis”, now being further intensified by the cost of living crisis, as evidenced by the following statistics:

*Rates of mental ill-health in Northern Ireland are 25 per cent higher than in England.

*Anxiety and depression in NI children is 25 per cent higher than in England.

*Despite 39 per cent of the population having experienced conflict-related trauma, there is little help offered to people to deal with this trauma, or the only help offered is medication.

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*Prescribing rates for anti-depressants increase by approximately four per cent year on year, yet at the same time, GP practices have fewer in-house counsellors than pre-Covid.

*The rate of death by suicide in the most deprived area is three times that of the least deprived area.

*The rate of drug related deaths in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of NI is five times that of the 20 per cent least deprived areas.

At the launch, a range of speakers shared their own personal experiences of mental health struggles and what has helped them to recover and heal. A new digital tool was also launched to allow people to share their personal ‘New Script for Mental Health’.

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Also featured was an exhibition, documenting the evolution of the mental health rights campaign since its inception in 2006 to now.

Dr. Dave Rogers, member of Psychologists for Social Change, added his support to therapeutic approaches to mental health that empower individuals and communities to take charge of their own stories:

‘Listening to a great story changes how we see the world, how we feel about ourselves and our future.

"But all too often we are captivated by powerful, selfish and narrow-minded voices that thrive on inequality and discrimination. This campaign will empower communities to write their own scripts, promoting solidarity and justice. Equality is the best therapy.”

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Magz Gibney, activist and writer, outlined her personal vision for a New Script for Mental Health.

“The script needs to be rewritten to include proper access to therapy, social prescribing, creative arts, sport, gardening, activism and social change. Before writing the script time, connection, humanity and choice need to be nurtured so that may find our voice and the courage to tell our unspoken stories to each other as fellow human beings without fear of rejection or judgement.

“They say it takes a whole community to raise a child, well I think it takes a whole community to hold a person in distress in the ways they need to recover and maybe even find enough hope and love in themselves and the world around them that they flourish.”