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The ‘Are you a little bit OCD?’ Project

Some of our East Midland volunteers

Some of our lovely volunteers pictured taking part in our 'Are you a little bit OCD?' awareness and anti-stigma project in Nottingham earlier this month. The OCD-UK volunteers will also be at tomorrow's Nottingham Carnival and we wish them luck for nice weather and that they enjoy the challenge of talking about OCD and mental health to strangers. It's a challenging but important role, and one all of our volunteers seem to have grown in confidence with throughout the project.

"I am incredibly proud of all of our team of volunteers for having the immense courage to put their experience of OCD and mental health out there in the public domain throughout this project." said our Chief executive, Ashley Fulwood, who went on to say, "Courage is the right word, it really does take courage to be so open to strangers, so I want to thank them and tell them all how proud of them that I am. Additionally I want to thank our project co-ordinator Beth, who really is making this project a reality."

Why did we use the 'Little bit OCD' phrase in our project title?

The objective of the ‘Are you a little bit OCD?’ project is to engage the pubic and change perceptions about OCD and mental health stigma, all through meaningful conversation.

The flippant use of the term ‘I'm a little bit OCD about X’ that seems to be used in everyday conversation is still something that many people with OCD find upsetting and remains a stigmatising barrier to helping those that suffer with this often misunderstood disorder feel that they can be open and talk freely.

Throughout the project our volunteers, all with first-hand experience of OCD, will endeavour to engage members of the public in conversation sharing their experiences with a view to encouraging them to think differently about the way they perceive both OCD and mental illness in general.

Over recent years we have seen fantastic changes in the way people view mental illness, especially the younger generation and young adults, this is partly down to the fantastic efforts of charities like Time to Change and OCD-UK.

However, in our experience OCD has been somewhat left behind and seems to be an illness that is often trivialised and even joked about with people often saying ‘I’m a little bit OCD about that’. In fact, during some of our conversations members of the public highlighted that Channel 4's Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners was where they had got their unhelpful beliefs about OCD. The result is that those that suffer with OCD remain stigmatised and made to feel uncomfortable discussing their illness, even with family and friends let alone employers.

And like the t-shirts in the picture highlight, through our project we aim to change perceptions about OCD.... one conversation at a time.

The project is funded by the national charity, Time to Change, England’s biggest programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

So why does trivial use of the OCD term upset people?

People often confuse OCD for pernickety personal quirks of choice or preference but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is far more serious than people realise. The key is in the name and the word Disorder which is defined ‘a psychological pattern associated with distress or disability’.

Most people who choose to have set behaviour like having their home tidy or certain order for their CD collection do so out of preference and choice which leads to some form of satisfaction, but which is NOT OCD.

By describing such behaviour as OCD is a subtle way of saying "oh, yeah we all do that, no big deal."

People affected by OCD find their behaviour (the compulsions) dictated through distress caused by the relentless obsessive thoughts and anxiety which frequently leads to periods of disablement, rather than some kind of satisfaction.

 

So far the project is still in its infancy, with some of the feedback from the public showing some interesting reading:

  • 97% of contacts said that our activity had been very or fairly effective in showing how stigma and discrimination might affect people with mental health problems (with 27.9% saying that it was fairly effective).
  • 95.6% of contacts said that our activity had been very or fairly effective in showing that people can recover from mental health problems (with 39.7% saying that it had been fairly effective).
  • 97.8% of contacts said that our activity had been very or fairly effective in showing that mental health problems are not a sign of weakness (with 16.2% saying that it had been fairly effective).
  • 95.6% of contacts agreed strongly or slightly that mental health problems are common (with 19.1% agreeing slightly).
  • 97.1% agreed strongly or slightly that people with mental health problems can face stigma and discrimination (with 14.7% agreeing slightly).
  • 96.7% of contacts agreed strongly or slightly that sometimes the hardest part of dealing with mental health problems is facing stigma from others (with 28.7% agreeing slightly).
  • 81.6% of contacts said they would be a lot more or quite a bit more willing to challenge a person if they saw them doing something unfair to someone with mental health problems (with 30.1% saying they’d be quite a bit more willing).
  • 73.5% of contacts said that they would be a lot more or quite a bit more willing to speak more openly about their mental health (with 27.2% saying they’d be quite a bit more willing).

Between now and the end of the project, we aim to target at least another 500 meaningful conversations across the East Midlands.

Interested in volunteering for the project? Take a look here, and please speak to the project co-ordinator Beth on beth@ocduk.org or call her (Tue-Thu) on 07748 175 753.

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