Today is Time to Talk Day – a day created by Time for Change to encourage everyone to have a conversation about mental health.
In their own words:
“We know that talking about mental health can feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to.”
In October 2019 Public Health England launched the Every Mind Matters campaign – helping the general population to manage and maintain their mental health. The campaign advert was narrated by the young Royals and featured a wealth of celebrities including Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Freddie Flintoff, Professor Green, Davina McCall and Jordan Stephens, alongside “ordinary” members of the public to highlight the point that we all have mental health – and that every mind matters.
So why, despite a huge commitment and drive to “normalise” mental health challenges, can talking about our mental health still feel so tough?
Of course, stigma continues to play a huge part. According to the Institute of Psychiatry:
- 9 out of 10 people who experience mental health problems say they face stigma and discrimination as a result
- 60% said that stigma and discrimination are as, or more, damaging than the symptoms of their mental health problem
- 35% said stigma had made them give up on their ambitions, hopes and dreams
Stigma is alive and kicking – but it is only with talking, listening, learning and understanding that we will start to win the battle of breaking down these barriers.
And I believe the first place to start is with ourselves.
As someone who has faced her own mental health challenges, perhaps the biggest hurdle I face/d is admitting to myself when I’m not feeling OK. I don’t come from a family where talking about your feelings is particularly embraced – and I’m typically the “happy-go-lucky” one of my friendship groups. Admitting when I’m feeling low or anxious is a big deal for me – because I don’t want to feel like I’m burdening other people with my issues.
The last time I found myself facing some pretty challenging mental health stuff was just before embarking on our new business adventure. And I knew I owed it to my soon-to-be business partners to let them in. So one day we were all travelling to a meeting together, and I chose for this to be my time to talk…
The pure and simple kindness of my two POINT3 friends – who listened to what I had to say, didn’t turn it into a big deal but who made it absolutely clear that they were there to support me in whatever way they could – was undoubtedly the first and immediate step to my recovery.
For me, talking is such a powerful tool in the fight against mental health challenges – it takes the voice outside of my head and into the world – in my own words and in my own way. For me this is a major step towards recovery as it puts me back into the driving seat – leading me onwards to options and solutions that I am in control of.
Of course for those of us doing the talking – we’d do well to choose a half decent listener! And this is where we can all play our part. Being understood is one of the most basic of all human needs and yet listening is not something that comes easily or naturally to many of us.
As an MHFA England trainer I believe non-judgemental listening sits at the very heart of everything that we teach on the course – and we allow plenty of time to practice this skill – as like a muscle it is something that needs to be flexed often in order to grow and develop.
So on this Time to Talk Day I would encourage anyone going through challenges to find someone you trust and have a go at sharing what’s going on for you.
And if you’re that person who someone trusts enough to speak with – then I can definitely recommend the approach my awesome P3 gang took:
- Be there
- Listen non-judgmentally
- Talk through available options to help support the person through this time
And of course, seek the support of healthcare professionals at any point if this is required.
“We know that talking about mental health can feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to” – here’s to a day of empowering conversations and strengthening our connections with each other.
Be nice people 🙂