by Jamie Walker

I will be honest, recently I have suffered from an extremely difficult spell of anxiety. As or writing I am not feeling well. I have not been feeling myself and despite looking good on the outside on the inside however it is a completely different story.

I have struggled over the last few weeks and yes there have been good days but the bad days where I feel a sense of worthlessness have been challenging. I have struggled immensely and failed to find the motivation and energy to really apply myself 100%. However with the launch of a new group has given me hope and a renewed sense of determination. The launch of Political Minds this month, a new sub-group of the One in Five Campaign, marked a very important step in the campaign to remove the barriers facing disabled Scots today. For those who perhaps did not see or hear about the launch of Political Minds, we are a sub-group aiming to raise awareness and remove the stigma that mental illness faces today. In particular it is important to raise awareness of the inequalities that currently face Scots.

Recently I had the opportunity of listening and learning more in depth about the issues effecting disabled Scots from Inclusion Scotland and SAMH.  In this blog I want to talk about the things I learned at these fringe events. One fringe event which was run by Inclusion Scotland fantastic organisation wishing to eleiminate barriers for people to participate in politics and in wider society. Their vision, like One in Five, is to create an inclusive Scotland particularly for disabled Scots. I also popped over to the SAMH stall and started to read through the material and research that they have conducted into mental health. It was clear from their presentation that far too many barriers currently exists.

A society should be judged upon how it treats its most vulnerable.  However far too often integration into society is prevented by misinformed attitudes. For example between the years of 2011-2012 50% of disabled Scots reported that there was an increase in hostile attitudes towards them. Furthermore public support for helping disabled people who cannot get into work fell from 63% to 53% between the years of 2008 and 2011. These are worrying figures and I myself have felt this negative attitudes towards my own struggle with anxiety. People have said that its not a real illness, they do not treat it the same as other illnesses and say that I am no capable on the basis on my anxiety to contribute to anything. These comments along with the findings above will have major conceqauences for integration into wider society. The confidence of disabled people will be damaged as they feel they will not be treated fairly. Every one of us in every walk of society must challenge these negative attitudes. They are unhelpful and quite frankly they are wrong. It must be our duty to challenge them.

One way in which we can challenge and ultimately change these attitudes is throughout education system. Education can be a powerful tool in breaking down negative attitudes and fostering a positive environment for disabled Scots. Specifically in Social Education we should be teaching the next generation and about the symptoms, signs and ways to help people who are disabled. Schools should be openly discussing the issues which effect disabled Scots so they can familiarise themselves with these issues so instead of taking negative attitudes towards them they can come up with solutions to remove these issues. In relation to mental health all schools and educational institutions and the people within should be prepared with the skills and help necessary to offer support and understanding to disabled Scots to ensure that they can contribute and be treated equally in society.  If we can educate and discuss the issues, barriers and inequalities which exist in education we can ultimately create a better degree of understanding and a positive environment.  Secondly and most importantly we have to remember the positive impact disabled Scots can make to our society. Just because someone is disabled does not mean that they cannot contribute. We need to create the environment where the barriers are removed and we are open, welcoming of opinions and ideas and encourage active participation of disabled Scots in all levels of decision making. It is then that all decisions will be truly representative of the conditions and realities facing people across Scotland. When we remove the barriers and are positive about the impact disabled Scots can make then we can begin to change attitudes and the inequalities which exist in Scotland.

Inequality exists because it is created. It does not just naturally appear it is made by the decisions people take. However we the people can make the decisions which removes the inequalities and changes attitudes. We need the will to do it and the determination to see it through.

On another note a little self-care tip: an evening of listening to Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey helps!