IT’s all very well politicians, celebrities and world leaders raising awareness of anxiety and depression and encouraging people to talk on World Mental Health Day.

But for Emma Roddick, this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving people’s understanding of mental health conditions.

The Highlands and Islands SNP MSP – the youngest representative at Holyrood – was diagnosed with three personality disorders four years ago alongside complex post-traumatic stress disorder. This emerged after she had been treated for bipolar disorder by Scotland’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) before being discharged for a few years “to the detriment of her health”.

An intense struggle with trusting people, a fear of abandonment and regulating her emotions led her to undergo a three-month assessment after which she was finally given a different diagnosis. Although she still has her issues with the term “personality disorder”, she has never been afraid to be open about her condition.

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But in boldly speaking out about it she has had to endure stigma along the way. After she made her diagnosis clear when she was a councillor in Inverness, people used it to suggest she was not fit to be an MSP, through cruel emails, blogs and social media posts.

In Parliament since, Roddick has had colleagues assume she can’t handle certain tasks because she’s “already got enough on her plate”, while others have casually used the term “personality disorder”

as an adjective.

The 25-year-old is now determined to see the Scottish Parliament set an example and ensure that when mental health is being debated politicians are not just speaking in the vague terms of anxiety and depression but considering conditions beyond this.

“For as long as people are afraid of these diagnoses [more complex mental health conditions], they are not going to improve services for them,” Roddick said. “They’re not going to delve into whether the diagnoses make sense. We’re never going to get beyond that idea of ‘she has a personality disorder so she shouldn’t be in Parliament’.

“I’d been open about my diagnosis as a councillor and when I was campaigning to be an MSP I would get nasty emails and blogs written about me. People would look up borderline personality disorder and get the list of possible symptoms and copy and paste them and put them on tweets and say, ‘Does this sound like an MSP?’.

“That was hard to deal with but not unexpected because that is how people react. They’re a bit scared and assume you are a certain stereotype – hysterical, clingy or abusive even. I’ve had people say I can’t handle being an MSP because I have a mental health issue.”

Roddick led a successful debate in Parliament last month on mental health stigma in the workplace focusing on “severe and enduring” illnesses such as her own. MSPs across all parties engaged positively with her motion which agreed the Government should recognise a “pervasive stigma relating to personality, dissociative, and psychosis-related disorders” and address the issue in its new Mental Health Strategy.

On the back of that, Roddick is making sure each member of her staff gets mental health training and hopes other MSPs will follow suit.

In devising the Mental Health Strategy, Roddick would also like to see the Scottish Government listen to people with lived experience. She said: “Colleagues, even some ministers, have talked to me [since the debate] about some of the language I raised and said they’re going to try their best not to call things insane or psychotic. It was a really good response.

‘IN terms of what the Scottish Parliament can do going forward now, it goes back to listening to what we want. There are so many advocacy groups led by people with personality disorders.

“I know Kevin [Stewart, the Mental Health Minister] is really keen to involve lived experience in the strategy so that is a good sign that things could get better.

“I’ve arranged for my team to have mental health training and I’m hoping maybe some others in the building will too or maybe the Scottish Government will take it on as standard.

“I’ve been arguing quite strongly in committee that everyone working in the public sector should be trauma-informed.

“Scottish Government policy at the moment is that those who have a specific role in dealing with people who have experienced trauma are trauma-informed, but people who experience trauma don’t just come along to trauma sessions, they also apply for council tax reduction and the Scottish Child Payment, so everyone should have a basic understanding of it.”

Roddick also insists a lack of crisis services in Scotland is “one of the biggest failures” she has come up against and hopes the launch of Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) in Scotland will help to start addressing this.

DBI is a brief intervention for people experiencing mental distress which equips them with a range of skills and support to cope with emotional pain. A pilot ran until March last year in four areas, before funding was announced for an extension of the programme across the whole country.

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Roddick believes this will be a major step in helping those who have reached breaking point.

“If you’re in that acute state where you want to hurt yourself, you might go to A&E who will discharge you. You might be referred to a crisis service but they will phone back the next day or the next week and book you in for an appointment, so for me DBI has been a massive step forward,” she said.

“I went along to the DBI offices in Inverness and heard about what they’ve been doing and they’ve been getting incredible feedback from service users. Once that’s available everywhere we will be in a much better position to improve things.

“It shows the Scottish Government understands the need for crisis services,” she added.