Comment: Anything to destroy stigma is welcomed

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wHEN Chris McCullough Young set out to walk around Britain, he knew he would be 
relying on the kindness of strangers.

Cadging lifts and meals might seem like a risk to most of us who rarely venture far without the 
reassurance of a pre-booked train ticket or a hotel reservation.

But given that Chris planned to tell people he fell into conversation with that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, it took his adventure into a completely different world.

How would people react? Would he find the problems suggested by the depressing research suggesting that 90 per cent of people would not invite a stranger with mental health problems into their home?

The fact that Chris found so much goodwill on his travels is heartening. Perhaps it was the former social worker’s warm personality that persuaded so many people to react in the most positive of ways.

But it does not alter the fact that there is undoubtedly a great deal of stigma still surrounding mental ill health.

For many such problems are borne privately amid worries about how friends, colleagues and even loved ones might react.

Chris’s crusade echoes what has become one of the definite themes of this year’s Festival.

Comedian Paul Merton is just the latest performer to open up about his experiences this August, with others using their mental 
health struggles to inform or 
inspire their shows.

Mental health might not be the easiest subject for entertainers to take on, but the move has to be welcomed. Anything that makes it more mainstream and accepted – more everyday – will help destroy the stigma.

The Festival can be inspirational, but rarely more so than when it gives people a platform to break down barriers.