Time to Talk
It is estimated that 1 in 4 experience a mental health problem in any given year. Time to Talk is the nation's biggest mental health conversation run by various mental health associations. Held annually, Time to Talk encourages society to have the difficult conversations surrounding mental health in the hopes to create a better quality of life. Time to Talk 2023 will take place 2nd February 2023.
Conversations have the power to combat the stigma attached to mental health. This stigma is dangerous because it can prevent us from recognising when we need to reach out for help. Many people avoid discussing their mental health due to the worries of facing discrimination at work, by our loved ones or the wider community. Discussions can help us to understand how prevalent mental health illness and issues are and allows us opportunities to dispel misconceptions. Talking about our mental health helps better our communities by making it more tolerable for those affected from mental illnesses to seek help, learn coping mechanisms and get on the road to recovery.
It is important to regularly keep in check with our mental well-being as maintaining our mental wellbeing is a vital aspect of staying healthy overall. The mind and body are often viewed as two different entities; however, this is not the case. There is an abundance of research which shows the detrimental effect poor mental health has on the body. Depression has been linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and cancer.
There are many reasons why may choose to shy away from talking about mental health. The first hurdle is often the fear of how to approach the subject. There is no right answer about how to approach a conversation about mental health however there are tips for effective communication. Here are some to help you get the conversation flowing:
It is not about quick fixes
Talking, itself, is a powerful tool that has the ability to make a difference. It can be difficult to watch a loved one struggle with their mental health and wanting to do everything we can to help. However, we must try to resist the urge to suggest quick fixes to help the situation. Understanding how to manage and recover from a mental health issue can be a long journey and most likely, the individual has considered different strategies and coping mechanisms. Unless the individual has directly asked for help, it is best to be someone who can simply listen.
Whilst some people may be ready to have conversations about their mental health, others may not. If someone does not feel comfortable talking about what they are going through, do not be disheartened. Knowing you have tried may help them to open up to you in the future. People go through journeys at different paces and therefore it is important to have patience
Walk and talk
Environment can play a large factor in conversations about mental health. Opening up about personal matters can make some people feel vulnerable, especially if these conversations are taking place face-to-face. You can start a conversation during a walk or engaging activity such as cooking or even gaming. An individual may feel more at ease and relaxed processing their thoughts doing this as it feels less daunting. Furthermore, exercise is a great way of looking after both our physical and mental health so why not take your mental health talks outdoors.
Ask questions and listen
When we ask people questions about their mental health, we provide them a safe space to express and share how they are feeling. Asking questions will help provide context regarding someone’s experience. It is important to also be attentive and really listen to what a person is saying. Someone who is willing to engage in a conversation about their mental health wants to be heard and that is already overcoming a big hurdle .
Communicate your understanding
People often feel that they will be misunderstood when talking about their mental health struggles. Try to communicate affirmations of your understanding regarding others situations and feelings. This can be as simple as saying “I understand.’ This can help build up their confidence in themselves.
Treat people the same
What often prevents people opening up about their mental health is the fear of judgement. When talking with people about their feelings or mental health struggles, it is important to remember that they are the same person as they were before. We must be mindful to treat people the same after they open up.
Everyone has mental health and therefore it is important to destigmatize through active conversations. The more open we are about the realities and challenges of mental health, the more we begin to realise we are not alone. However you choose to do it, have a conversation about mental health with someone today and help break the stigma.
So it feels best fitting to end this article by asking:
Are you ok?