Unity members contribute to teaching for mental health nursing

As part of a new initiative, Unity worked with undergraduate Mental Health Nursing students and delivered the ‘Ideal Mental Health Nurse’ exercise, making use of the ‘Ideal Social Worker’ exercise used in the social work induction.

Students were asked to think about the qualities of an “ideal nurse”, drawing on Unity members’ own experiences of receiving support. Students identified desirable qualities such as: being caring, promoting patient’s integrity, being non-judgemental and less desirable qualities: condescending, unreliable, talking at the patient.   It was interesting to note that there were commonalities in desirable qualities highlighted amongst social work and nursing students.

Given the health and social care integration Unity hope there will be further opportunities to collaborations with the Faculty of Health Sciences.


Stigma by Malky Kane

In 1957 a group called The Platters had a big hit with the song ‘The Great Pretender’. I won’t sing it……… however, it was so successful Freddie Mercury recorded it in the early 90’s.

The words of the song went like this –

‘Oh, yes, I’m the great pretender, pretending

I’m doing well.

My need is such, I pretend too much,

I’m lonely but no one can tell.’

This sums up exactly the feeling you get when you are stigmatised because of your age, your mental illness or your disability.

After you turn 65 and more, it seems to be open season to be stigmatised. An example of this is that I will be told my age at least three times in a day.   “WHY?”

The stigma of age, mental illness or some other disability is cruel and the people who use it against you don’t realise the damage it does.   It makes you feel totally worthless.

What they don’t seem to understand is that they too will be old someday or may experience a mental illness of some kind in later life.   They will then feel the pain we are feeling now but it will be too late.   Yes, it really does hurt.

What is stigma – it is a mark that sets you apart from others, for example if you wear trainers without the tick (Nike) you must be cheap.   If you wear the wrong football top in the wrong place – LOOK OUT!

Since I was at Primary School I always had a bad stammer so you can imagine how I was stigmatised and that lasted all through Primary School.   It eased off a bit in Secondary School but did not go completely – there is always one smart alec.

When the film The King’s Speech was released and some people thought it was funny to speak with a stammer but a joke is only funny if everybody laughs the person with the stammer doesn’t think it’s funny!

Now if you have a mental illness and you are over 65 you are now stigmatised in stereo – a double whammy if you like!

I suffer from panic attacks and this, as you will know, can bring on stress causing an increase in my stammer but people don’t bother about this side of ‘the joke’

Mental illness is used a lot with the media to justify an out of character occurrenc

Why are people with mental illnesses picked on? It’s just another illness. No one makes a joke about the various types of cancer.   Mental illness can be very serious and if people just tried to understand it more they would not make a joke of it.

We in Falkirk are fighting the stigma of mental illness and with your help and the help of the See Me campaign we can do more.

Just remember people like me who speak with a stammer or have panic attacks and are different from you due to other mental illnesses like bi-polar, hearing voices, etc. we are suffering these mental illnesses – we don’t need to suffer the stigma as well – but we DO need your help to assist us in the fight.

Being over 65 (or even 72) just means that we were born before you and therefore we have more experience of life and if you need advice, we might just have the answers.

Call for conference workshop ideas

Unity is hosting a conference on 26th April 2017, working jointly with the University of Stirling Students’ Union, the Scottish Social Services Council and the Scottish Inter-University Service User and Carer Network. We would love for you to join us!

The conference is about service user and carer involvement in professional education. It will be a lively day spent sharing best practice, developing ideas and discussing how to overcome key challenges. We invite everyone with ideas to share to join us! In particular, please put in a proposal to run a workshop or a taster session if you can: we are looking forward to hearing about exciting ideas and developments, from across the UK and beyond! There is information for anyone with an idea for a workshop here.

A moment of your time

On 10th October, Unity members took part in ‘A Moment of Your Time’, an event at Stirling University to celebrate World Mental Health Day. The aim was to encourage students and staff to take a moment out of their day, to take part in fun activities, to chat, and to raise awareness of the importance of looking after your mental health. Unity members were involved in the very popular art table (colouring for relaxation) and the wonderful singing group – click here for more information and to hear a clip!

colouring-table-1 singing-group-2

The event was organised by Artlink Central in collaboration with a range of organisations including the Students’ Union and Unity.

Article about Unity role-play workshops

Since 2014, Unity has been working with university staff to deliver role-play workshops to the social work students at Stirling. We have learnt a lot along the way about the best ways to do this! Now a journal article has been published to share this learning more widely, thanks to staff member Sara Hitchin and the Unity members and students who have taken part so far. Sara writes:

The workshop provides an example of how service user involvement in social work education has evolved from a primary focus on sharing personal testimonies to active participation in student skill development. It underlines the importance of investment in service user involvement to achieve an appropriate context for such projects to develop.


The article includes the views of students and Unity members about the value of the workshops. For instance:

I really enjoyed it. I felt that the interview with the Unity member felt almost like I was in practice as it was their real problems which allowed me to feel empathy. (Student quote, 2015)

I enjoyed it greatly – it gives me a sense of actually being listened to. It put the things that happen in life to great use that benefitted – I hope – the students who will be able to help change things in other people’s lives for their good, so indirectly I have helped those people get their lives together. (Unity member)

The full article is published in Social Work Education, an academic journal with an international audience, and can be accessed here.

Social work in 40 objects

Mark Doel is writing a book that tells the story of social work in 40 objects. He’s asking for suggested objects – see Unity’s suggestion here!

_group selfie for SW in 40 objects

Lynda reflects on her involvement with Unity


Hi, my name is Lynda and I am a member of Unity, which is a group within the university. We meet up every six weeks. I love being involved in Unity. All the members belong to other groups on the outside but getting together with Unity is the highlight of our work. We work with the undergraduate and postgraduate social work students, we do a series of workshops which includes a lot of role-play. The Unity members all love taking part in these workshops. So do the students, they say that it helps them immensely with their studies. We aim to produce the best social workers in Scotland and we do, it has been proved throughout the ten years Unity has been going.  We ourselves get so much out of working with the students. It gives us confidence and makes us feel we are making a difference showing empathy and compassion.



Unity members draw on a range of life experiences, to enrich the education of social work and nursing students. Here, Unity member Malky reflects on what ‘dignity’ means to him.

When a doctor tells you that you have a mental illness, it takes a few days to come to terms with this information and you slip into your shell.

Facing people is very difficult – you just want to keep to yourself, afraid to tell anyone you have a mental illness, and your dignity has eroded so much that you feel as if you are totally alone, even in a room full of people.

A medical person I was speaking to some time after I had received this information, suggested that I might do very well at a place called Caledonia Clubhouse. So nothing ventured, I thought to myself, and I went along to see what it was all about. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the people there all had a mental illness of one kind or another – I was no longer alone, other people were in the same boat.

Over the time I was there, I was given a T.E.P. which was a cleaning job, not really much of a job you may say but it was enough to get me back into work and the pride in my achievements this gave me. Going home that first night after work the thought came to me that I’m going home on the bus with other people going home from their work and it certainly made me feel good.

As time passed and I got more jobs the better I felt and I must say my dignity started to come back because I was fighting my mental illness and it became easier all the time to face people.

Dignity is important to people with a mental illness.

“It’s like love, isn’t it?”



In a recent essay, student representative Tracey McQuillian used her work with Unity to reflect on what makes “co-production” work. She explained what she has learned about herself from working with Unity and she described that “intangible quality” that:

  • makes the group so effective in its contributions to social work education;
  • supports and enables members to feel included and to develop, through supporting the development of others.

Tracey used a quote from a member to sum up how difficult it is to put the strengths of Unity into words:

“It’s like love isn’t it? You can’t grasp it, count it or measure it, and yet, you know it’s there.”

You can read Tracey’s full essay here.

Unity newsletter 2016

Our newsletter showcases some of our work, and helps us to keep in touch with members old and new. The latest edition is out now – we hope that you enjoy it!



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