Equality News Update: The Scotsman: Mark O’Donnell: Vision to help those with sight loss face mental health challenges

Reported by The Scotsman – the news we share raises awareness of equality issues being reported in the media.

Talking about our mental health is something that many of us still find difficult to do – for too long our society did not encourage us to open up about our feelings and our emotional wellbeing. The results of this were too many people blighted by stigma around mental health, tragically high rates of suicide and a lack of support.

As a result of the tireless efforts of mental health campaigners and high profile campaigns, stigma around emotional wellbeing is starting to be broken down. People are encouraged to be open about feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. Our workplaces are encouraged to be supportive of people with mental health challenges and be conscious of what they can do to promote good mental health. The Scottish Government launched a ten-year Mental Health Strategy in 2017 to raise awareness and improve support in Scotland.

While awareness has increased of the need to provide the right support for mental health in our communities, the emotional challenges that can come with visual impairment have not been as well understood.

Our experience as a charity supporting people with visual impairment has made us keenly aware that with sight loss comes emotional as well as physical impacts. People born with visual impairment still too often face stigma and inequality in our society, in education and employment. People who experience sight loss in later life face huge changes in what they are able to do and how they interact with others. All these experiences can contribute to loneliness, a lack of confidence and stress.

We wanted to raise awareness of how often people with sight loss face mental health challenges. We also wanted to develop an understanding of whether there is adequate ­support available to them deal with the ­emotional impact of sight loss. For these reasons we decided to undertake research into this issue with the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, so we could share expertise both on sight loss and mental health.

The findings from this research have informed our joint report ­Emotional Support for Sight Loss. Nearly 400 people with sight loss took part in the research, which found that 85 per cent had experienced challenges to their mental health as a result of their visual impairment.

 

 

 

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