Today is Time to Talk day! Time to Change want to use this day to get the nation talking about mental health. Conversations really do change lives, because although a simple chat won’t necessarily cure them someone’s mental health problems, talking about them will take a massive weight off anyone’s shoulders.
Talking about my own mental health has been transformative for me. I used to be incredibly uncomfortable talking about my anxiety, and it was ages before I was able to pluck up the courage to tell my doctor I thought I might have OCD. I knew that my thoughts and compulsions were irrational and strange, and I was terrified that if I told someone they would think I was crazy. When I finally told my Dad about my OCD he was really supportive and not at all judgmental. With my family’s support I was finally able to get the help I needed, and although I still have a long way to go I’m able to cope with my OCD so much better!
Openly discussing mental health is really important. Not only can it be a huge relief for the person who is struggling, but it also does a lot to reduce the stigma around mental illness. One day I hope we will be at a stage when talking about depression will be no different to telling someone you’ve got the flu or have broken your leg. We’re not there yet, but every conversation will help to normalise the discussion of mental health. We all have mental health (just like we have physical health), and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it!
So what can you actually do to mark Time to Change day? How do you start the conversation? If you’re reaching out to someone who is struggling, the most important thing is to listen – you don’t need all the expert knowledge of a therapist or psychiatrist, you just need to show them that you are there and that you won’t judge. You might start a conversation by sending someone a text, having a phone call, or meeting up for a coffee. Tell them that you are listening, and ask what you can do to help.
If you’re experiencing mental health problems yourself, reaching out can be daunting but I promise you it is worth it. Talk someone you can trust like a close friend or family member. Telling someone about a mental health problem can be scary because you don’t know what their reaction will be, but it will probably be much better than you think. Even if they aren’t as supportive as you’d have hoped, not having to hide your mental health problem anymore can lift a huge weight off your shoulders, and you may find that the person you have told will become more understanding or accepting over time. And remember – there are loads of people out there who do want to listen. There’s a really strong mental health community on Twitter (just search for #TalkMH), and there will probably be a group of people in your community or at your university who have been where you are now and will understand. Take a look at Student Minds, Mental Health Mates, or the online support group run by Mind.
Everyday should be Time to Talk day, and I hope you have some great conversations today feel inspired to be more open about your mental health in the future!