February 1st is Time to Talk Day – a campaign run by the charity Time to Change, encouraging all of us to talk about mental health. You don’t need to have experienced a mental health problem yourself, or know anyone who has; the campaign is about promoting conversation anywhere, at any time. It’s about making the conversation on mental health a normal part of society.
After all, we all have mental health, so why is the prospect of talking about it still taboo? This Time to Talk Day and beyond, we want to encourage conversation. We need to know that it is OK to need help and more importantly, it’s OK to not be OK.
The power of talking
In a 2016 Time to Change survey, it was revealed that of over 7,000 people living with mental health issues, 60% said they felt relieved and like ‘a weight had been lifted’ after talking about their condition.
We all need a bit of help sometimes, but knowing what to do next can be difficult. You may know you need help, yet have no idea who to speak to, or what it is you actually need and so you keep quiet. The thing is, when you’re finding life difficult, keeping things to yourself is unlikely to help. It may feel small and insignificant at first, but locking it away can lead to it growing, bigger and bigger, until it’s out of control.
Whoever you are, we all need support. Often we can get this through friends and family; we talk to them about how we feel and they can offer us the love and support we need to get through it. Sometimes though, we need more. Sometimes, we need professional support – and that’s OK.
Talking is a simple act, yet so powerful. Many of us don’t realise how beneficial it can be until we’ve been through it and reached the other side, but we want to change this. We should be as comfortable talking about mental health as we are about our physical health.
The benefits of talking not only help us share what is on our minds, it is the first step to getting better. Without talking about the issue, how can you get help?
Of course, not all of us are in the position to talk to our loved ones or colleagues, which is where counselling can be an option. Yes, we’re encouraging everyone to talk about mental health, but for some of us, it’s not so simple. Counselling is a place to talk about what you’re feeling or experiencing, without the fear of judgement or shame. It is a private, safe space for you to speak about whatever you want, to someone who will listen.
Counsellor and psychotherapist, Teresa Mulvena explains more about how talking can help.
“It is a bit of a mysterious process, but saying things out loud to another person can feel like a tremendous relief, and feels completely different from the thoughts going around in your head” she says. “There is something about the process of speaking about issues that feels very different.”
How to start a conversation
Whether you want to talk to someone about your mental health, or because you’re worried about someone else, starting the conversation often is the hardest. The first thing to do, is to ensure you are somewhere you are both comfortable – this may be in a coffee shop, your home or perhaps even on a walk.
If you’re worried about a friend or colleague, you can start with a simple, How are you feeling today? or Are you OK? It may seem like the smallest thing, but this may be the first time in a long time that someone has asked. This gives them the opportunity to talk openly.
If you are wanting to ask for help, or talk about something you’re going through, it’s important you speak to someone you trust. Send them a quick message or ask if they’re available to talk. Be honest and tell them how you feel. If you need them to help you, tell them and thank them for listening to what you have to say. Know that the hardest part is over.
For some people, the topic of mental health can be quite overwhelming, which is why we are working to raise awareness and promote conversation. Be sure to take it slow, and one step at a time. They may not be ready to talk to you about how they feel, but knowing you are there for them can really help. Same goes if you’re the one asking for help, know they may not have all the answers, but ask them to be there for you. Knowing you have someone to speak to when things get difficult can make the journey much easier.
For more tips and advice on how to talk about mental health, visit Time to Change.
We know how daunting it can be, approaching the subject of mental health. Whether you’re worried about someone or wanting to ask for help yourself, having the right information and support available can be incredibly helpful. Below is a list of resources, which we hope will make the first conversation about mental health easier.
Worried about someone else? – If you’re worried about someone else’s mental health, it’s important to do what you can to help. Here we explain what you can do when worried about someone else, including spotting the signs of a problem and suggestions on what to say.
Workplace well-being – According to Mind, the mental health charity, at least one in six workers are experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Employee well-being is, thankfully, becoming more of a focus in organisations. Campaigns and policies are sprouting in companies, in an attempt to ensure workers are happy in employment. Here you can learn more about the importance of workplace well-being and what to do if you’re an employer.
- It’s OK to ask for help
- What to do if you’re worried about a friend
- Supporting a friend with depression
- Supporting a friend with bipolar disorder
- How to support a grieving friend
When you’re going through a difficult time, you may feel quite isolated and alone. Mental health affects us all, yet because of the stigma and much misunderstanding, when you’re struggling, it can seem like you are the only person who feels that way. The thing is, there are people who know what you’re going through, and have made it through the other side.
Real stories, written by real people can be not only eye-opening and informative, but they can provide a sense of support and compassion to someone who may be going through a similar situation. The person writing the story can also benefit – writing, like talking, can be incredibly effective in relieving stress and expressing how you feel.
- Peter: The conversation that changed my life
- Chris: Challenging mental health stigma by walking and talking
- Stacey: Growing up with OCD
- Beth: I have anxiety. But that is not who I am
- Carrie: My journey to diagnosis with CFS/ME
Ask a counsellor
Counsellor, Philip Karahassan answers your questions: