Care lecturer on #mymentalhealthmatters

October 8, 2019 - Michael Steel

Health and Social Care lecturer Michael Steel writes for us during #mymentalhealthmatters month about how mental health education has changed over the years.


My name is Michael Steel and I am a lecturer in Health and Social Care at the Ayr Campus.

I have 35 years’ experience of working in a variety of roles within the mental health arena including working in acute admissions, being a community psychiatric nurse and working as a nurse specialist within addiction services.

I also had a two year secondment to the Scottish Government where I worked in the Department of Health looking at future strategy for mental health services in Scotland. My last nursing role, before coming to Ayrshire College four years ago, was as a forensic mental health nurse working across high and low locked secure service provision and prisons.

During this time I have witnessed significant changes in the way mental health services have developed, particularly in the areas of treatments and public education.

One of the most recent advances has been the emergence of the social model of disability applied to mental health, part of which sees labelling and stigmatisation of people who use services as unhelpful. This is also a welcome move away from the traditional biological model of psychiatry where medication to dampen symptoms was the treatment of choice.

Currently the general public, and therefore our students, face huge mental health information challenges.

Public education on mental health problems tends to focus on identifying symptoms and using this information as an early self-diagnosis indicator requiring action or for relapse prevention. The rise of the internet and social media has increased accessibility to information often in ways which cannot be effectively policed for people who may be vulnerable to what is offered and could be unreliable. For example, a simple Google search for ‘sociopath self-test’ yields over 2.7 million results.

I also believe that at the moment there is not enough reliable information or services which promote good positive mental health. Mental health can be compared to physical health. Somedays our physical health isn’t great and we can feel unwell. Exactly the same applies to mental health. It’s okay to sometimes feel a bit stressed or a bit down but that doesn’t mean we should immediately self-diagnose ourselves as suffering from anxiety or depression.

Following on from our successful mental health ‘Conversation Cafes’ last year, this year I plan to raise awareness of Project Semi-Colon.

This is an American non-profit organisation known for its advocacy of mental health wellness and its focus as an anti-suicide initiative. Founded in 2013, the movement's aim is "presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury". The organisation is characterised by semicolon symbols which many people, including myself, wear as tattoos to show visible support for mental health issues.

Find reliable information, look after your own mental health and don’t self diagnose.

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