The Beauty of Miss GB Was That It Gave Me a Platform to Talk about Mental Health Issues

By Thomson, Louisa | The Scotsman, October 10, 2017 | Go to article overview

The Beauty of Miss GB Was That It Gave Me a Platform to Talk about Mental Health Issues


Thomson, Louisa, The Scotsman


O n 15 September, I stood with almost 50 other women, including my twin sister Christina, to compete for the title of Miss Great Britain. I may not have won, but I am enormously proud that I achieved what I set out to do - to help raise awareness of mental health issues.

I am a mental health nurse, employed by the NHS within the Crisis Team in Fife, and I guess I am not what you would consider to be a typical beauty queen contestant.

Encouraged and supported by my friends and family, I decided to go for it, and when I won the title of Miss Stirling earlier this year to qualify for the final I was over the moon.

I also realised that Miss Great Britain offered me the perfect platform to talk about mental health and the challenges we face to break down stigma and discrimination.

Ahead of the final, I thought I would go against convention and approach a charity to become my 'sponsor' and I found my perfect match in Support in Mind Scotland, an organisation with an established record of supporting people affected by serious mental illness.

I went along to various services in my own time to find out more about them. It's unbelievable what these services do to help people, especially as they are usually operating with limited resources. The counselling, support groups and peer volunteering I witnessed was first class and I don't think these organisations get enough recognition for what they do. In my job I regularly encounter stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health. Often people have a negative perception of mental illness and can be judgemental, even though it affects one in four of us.

If someone breaks an arm they know what the process is and that they will make a relatively straightforward recovery. However, because mental illness is something you can't necessarily see, it doesn't receive the same equality.

It is encouraging to see a gradual shift in attitudes in recent years, but I believe we can go a lot further. People are becoming more willing to open up about depression and anxiety, but so much more can be done to talk about and understand severe and enduring mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia or bipolar don't just go away - there is no magic cure. When people talk about 'recovery' it doesn't mean you will be brand new - recovery can come in many forms. …

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