It’s Time To Talk! : Thoughts On Talking Mental Health

6th February 2020 : Time To Talk Day

Mental Health. It affects us all in some way. Perhaps you’ve dealt with mental illness or mental health issues in the past, or perhaps you’re struggling with them now. Maybe you know friends/family that do. Perhaps you don’t have a diagnosed condition and you’re able to focus on managing your overall wellbeing and mental wellness on a day to day basis.

According to the Time To Change charity, 1 in 4 of us will experience some kind of mental health issue.

With chronic illness and/or pain, it can become a vicious cycle and of course each can be of detriment to the other. Health conditions may trigger or make worse the likes of depression, and it can be an incredibly isolating experience. When physical illnesses are invisible you’re facing a double whammy, because neither your illness/pain nor your mental health can be seen, felt or fully appreciated by those on the outside.

Chronic illness and pain can leave you feeling hopeless about the future, scared, frustrated, fed up, exhausted, resentful, or a plethora of other emotions, often all at once in a big mush that can be suffocating. It can also impact your self-image and confidence, and I’ve found this particularly to be the case having a stoma. It’s so important to prioritise self-care and wellbeing, both mental and physical. Don’t underestimate the impact chronic conditions can have on mental health.

While there has been a collective shift in social consciousness around mental health, much stigma and lack of understanding and knowledge remains. More has been done factor in mental health and protect individual rights in the workplace, in recruitment and in education, but there are still so many gaps and inequality is still evident. There are more charities offline and more support groups online, but mental health services, like those provided in the UK on the NHS, are oversubscribed and wait lists continue to increase. It’s not easy to access the services people need and this can, in tragically unfair situations, even be lethal.

I also think there’s a rather unhealthy glorification of being busy and being stressed in western society. If we’re not busy, we’re not successful. If we’re not exhausted, we’re not working hard enough. If we’re not depressed or stressed to our core, then we’re simply not worthy.

There’s more talk about mental illness and mental wellbeing and a greater emphasis generally around self-care, and yet it’s still so hard for so many to talk about their experiences or seek support.

Little by little, the situation changes. Be part of that change.

The way I see it, there are various aspects to mental health. For example :

  • Diagnosed conditions, from anxiety and depression, to schizophrenia and bi-polar.
  • Prescription medications. It’s not weak to need or benefit from the use of medications prescribed by your GP or specialist, and yet there’s still a degree of stigma and shame surrounding such medications. Professional therapy is often used on its own or in conjunction with medication, though this seems to have slightly less judgement attached to it than medications.
  • The day to day mental health issues that can affect us all. Whether that’s stress or low mood, it’s part of the human condition.
  • Management and self-care of day to day mental health. The ways in which all of us do or can deal with and support our own mental health and wellbeing. Diet, exercise, lifestyle changes. Meditation, distractions, talking to friends and family. Getting outdoors, getting stuck in to a hobby, practicing self-care. Treating ourselves or doing something fun we can enjoy.
  • Supporting friends, family & loved ones with their mental health conditions. Whether more casual/informal support or as a carer, it’s important not to underestimate the impact mental health can have on those around them.

A few thoughts on opening up & talking about your mental health :

  • Whether you talk to someone is a personal choice. It’s up to you. You choose who to tell, what to tell them, how much you want them to know. Don’t feel pressured.

  • Test the water. If you’re sharing something and you’re not sure how someone may react, start off small and keep an open mind because you can’t control the responses of others.

  • Have a little faith. Most people are compassionate, thoughtful and kind, whether they have any understanding of what you’re going through or not. Most will want to be there for you in whatever way they can. Most won’t judge or make you feel “less than” because of what you’re going through with your mental health.

  • Loved ones often feel helpless, not knowing what to say or do. Let them know it’s okay, and try to suggest what would be helpful, now or in the future. Sometimes a person can be so scared of saying something ‘wrong’ that they say nothing at all, and we interpret that silence as rejection. Keep the dialogue open and try to empathise with how they may be feeling, too.

  • But be prepared for the worst, just in case. I say this because it’s not always rosy. It should be, but it isn’t guaranteed. I’ve had negative experiences and know first hand that not everyone is going to respond the way you’d hope they would. Sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge and general ignorance, rather than that person deliberately trying to hurt or offend. In some cases, the cliche of there being a generational gap may hold true, such as when talking to older family members. It’s certainly not always the case, but some may just be less aware of mental health and take a different perspective on it, having been raised and living their life in a different social climate with different understandings and expectations. Just saying “try not to take it personally” doesn’t really help, even if you know it’s not a personal reaction to you. Prepare yourself for any eventuality because the reaction of others is out of your control.

  • For many, opening up a little and talking can feel like a huge relief. Carry the burden on your back weighs heavier when you’re carrying it alone or trying to hide it away from the world.

  • Please remember that as alone as you may feel sometimes, you’re not. Family, friends, colleagues, partners. Charities and services like Samaritans. And the online world, which can be such a blessing because you can more easily reach out and find countless people who ‘get it’, people who won’t judge and will be there to give you the support you need. We may feel alone, but we’re alone in this together.

  • Know that you can handle whatever happens. Whether the outcome is supportive or otherwise, you can handle it.

  • Every step counts. Every conversation matters. It’s only through action that social attitudes gradually start to change. It’s only through education and experience that the cultural climate becomes less ignorant and more compassionate. This is how barriers are crossed and taboo is broken down. It’s how prejudice, stereotypes and misconceptions are challenged, bit by bit. By talking, raising awareness, or being that person someone else can talk to, you’re part of making that positive change a reality.

 ♥

You can find more information on Time to Talk day on the Time to Change website, where they also have a useful list of support services.

You can also check out my post for the 2019 Time To Talk where I shared my experiences with mental health & sharing these with others – the good, bad & the ugly side to sharing.

 ♥

Do you feel confident talking about mental health, either discussing your own or supporting someone else talking about theirs? Have you ever kept what you’re dealing with a secret for fear of sharing it?

Caz  ♥

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38 Comments

  1. February 5, 2020 / 4:38 pm

    This is such an. important topic, Caz, and you’ve done a stellar job covering it. It’s important that we remove the stigma around mental health. So many people fail to reach out for assistance because they’re worried about how it might impact relationships, careers, etc. No one should suffer alone. I always say that if you had pneumonia or a broken leg, you’d go to the doctor. Why wouldn’t you go when your brain is giving you trouble? Thanks for shining a light on such an important subject.

  2. February 5, 2020 / 4:39 pm

    You said the right thing – unhealthy glorification of being busy.
    How about chilling for a change?

    Been there. Seen it. It’s important to find your crew and share. Know you’re not alone.

  3. Margaret
    February 5, 2020 / 4:45 pm

    Caz this is absolutely dead on. And yes I had kept my anxiety a secret until I was 32 years old, and even then I didn’t tell anyone, my body just shut down. My heart had been beating 150 beats for so long, my body said, enough, done, if it had not I would probably still be hiding it. So, there is an example of managing it without help but I feel eventually you will need help because the body will only take so much. Mine is chemical (after going to 2 different psychologist because the first said it was chemical, not mental, and I thought he was as crazy as I was. Went to a female thinking it was just a men/woman understanding of things. She too said, chemical, not mental) Mine also doesn’t come and go, like “normal” anxiety/panic. You know anxiety attacks come one slowly building, last for an hour or a few, then ease off. Panic comes on quickly, lasts for a short time them goes. I can wake up with 150 beats per minute, and it stays that way for days, weeks, or months if not managed. It is a constant heat pounding, not rational, hard to breath, sweating palm, nauseous, tight chested etc, etc, terrifying ride, that well you have to sit here and deal with it until it is over. I read that most people will have 1 anxiety or panic attack in their life. Some people might end up having 2. The 2nd is usually triggered by fear of having another one. Just imagine, you are so terrified from having that attack that it triggers another. It said that in the study, when the people had that 1 attack they ended up in the hospital, knowing they were dying, and they would avoid the place they were at or the activity they were doing when the attack happened for fear that it might happen again. Yet there are people who live with them every day. Plus these cause other health issues as well that are sometimes not recognized as stemming from the original illness. AND that is just one disease. There are so many more invisible illnesses out there. Sorry didn’t mean to go on and on. 🙂 🙂

    • February 6, 2020 / 10:35 pm

      Margaret,

      I hope you have been tested for atrial fibrillation (AF), a cardiac malfunction. 150 beats per minute on a frequent basis sounds like something that could/might be better controlled.

      Good luck!
      Caz’s friend Annie

      • February 7, 2020 / 4:12 pm

        It does sound quite scary to wake up with your heart doing that. My heart does odd things at night and a little in the morning but that’s due to breathing problems I think. I’ve had panic attacks on a few occasions and they never get easier, but reflecting on them can be helpful – as you said with that research showing those who have one then worry about having another – to acknowledge what’s happened, what you can do to manage it and help yourself ‘if’ it were to happen again, and to remember that you’ve survived it, just as you can survive another one should it arise. What you go through Margaret.. I’m so sorry. And you make an excellent point about the chemical aspect (my anxiety, rather than panic-attacks per se) is chemical, not to do with my thoughts and not something a round of CBT is ever going to resolve. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience  ♥ xx

        • Margaret
          February 11, 2020 / 6:51 pm

          Caz it’s people like yourself, and post like this that help people the most. One of the biggest problems is that people think it’s them, everybody deals with this, and that they should suck it up. Be stronger, etc. Your post helps people see that it isn’t just them. That others go through these things. That they aren’t crazy. It encourages, and gives people the courage to talk about it. To speak up. To seek help. AND that they can make it. You are correct about CBT. It is useful, and will help someone who has been through traumas that trigger these physical symptoms but for people where it is chemical, it doesn’t help. It could help deal with some of the effects but won’t get rid of the attack. When I was younger, I really thought I had a heart issue, and that I was just going to drop dead one day. I felt crazy, and feared if I let anyone know what was happening inside that I’d be locked away in a padded room somewhere. Of course, that is part of the diagnosis of “anxiety” disorders(or at least it was decades ago when they figured out what was wrong with me) There was a list of symptoms, and tucked in between dizziness and nausea was “fear of or feeling a need to be locked away” It was comforting because then I knew that the “crazy and fear of being locked away” I was feeling was normal but then my second thought was how are they going from this list of headaches, rapid heart beat, sweaty palms, dizziness, fear of being or feeling a need to be locked away, nausea, vertigo….they just tucked it in there like it was no big deal haha 🙂

      • Margaret
        February 11, 2020 / 6:06 pm

        Hey Annie,

        Sorry for the slow reply but I just saw this. Yes they checked for that as well as a slew of other tests. It was weeks of this and that test. I learned a lot about health issues I had no idea about. The strangest to me was low blood pressure. It will mimic anxiety attacks too. Who knew. It has been like this since I was a child. I have learned ways to manage it without having to take the medications until it gets past the point of rational and I feel like I am having a heart attack. Not to make light of it because the docs say it is the worst they have seen but it can be dealt with. I am 52 years old now so it is pretty much a part of my life. I appreciate your suggestion 🙂

        Margaret

    • February 6, 2020 / 10:47 pm

      Caz—

      You do this so well—and it’s so important. Years ago, I worked as a freelancer writer for our county mental health system, and I was frequently writing about how damaging the stigma is in preventing people from seeking and getting the health care they need.
      The stigma has lessened, but unfortunately, it’s still with us. In the US, where we have an epidemic of gun violence, people are quick to say the shooter was mentally ill, when people with mental illness are significantly more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators.

      Keep up your fine work—while pacing yourself as well!
      Annie xo

      • February 7, 2020 / 4:33 pm

        That’s such an excellent point, Annie. All too often the assumption around mental health is one that the person is unstable and prone to violence, like with people thinking schizophrenics are likely to be violent. Some of this is probably from ignorance, lack of knowing people with such mental health issues in their day to day lives, and the perpetuation of stereotypes in film and media. You’re right, there’s still too much stigma and the painfully sad part is how it can hold people back and prevent them getting the support they need. Thank you for the wonderful comment  ♥🌷
        xx

  4. February 5, 2020 / 4:51 pm

    You are most wise, Caz. This is a huge issue and should be addressed far better than it is.

    Have a fabulous day, my friend. ♥

  5. February 5, 2020 / 5:24 pm

    This is such an important topic, and it makes me happy to see people talking about it, getting real about it. It can be a scary thing, but as you said, it’s so important to know what your options are and to know you aren’t alone. Thank you for sharing! 🖤

  6. Ashley
    February 5, 2020 / 6:00 pm

    That’s such a good point about expectations around stress and busy-ness. How did we ever get to the point that having relaxing down-time could possibly be considered a bad thing?

  7. February 5, 2020 / 6:38 pm

    I am a huge advocate for mental health and eliminating stigma. This was so well-written. Thank you for sharing on such a prevalent topic. Blessings!

  8. February 5, 2020 / 8:00 pm

    This is so well written. I’ve struggled with Anxiety and Depression for many years. For or a long time, I thought I was alone and thought nobody would understand if I explained how I felt. I thought I would lose the ones I love if I ever opened up. But talking about how I felt made me realise that I wasn’t alone and that others, especailly two very close people to me were also struggling with their mental health and just like me, felt stuck and lost. It’s so important to talk. Thank you for sharing! 💕

  9. February 5, 2020 / 9:58 pm

    I’m so glad that you, like so many others are opening up the conversation about mental health. It’s important that everyone gets on board as it’s the only way to get and keep people talking and reduce the stigma!

  10. February 5, 2020 / 10:24 pm

    Your comment about the “unhealthy glorification of being busy” struck a chord. Being busy seems to have become a badge of honour, doesn’t it? And yet, the happiest people I know live in the moment and don’t compare themselves with others or feel the need to compete. An approach to life that we could all benefit from adopting 🙂

  11. February 6, 2020 / 12:53 am

    BRAVO. This is spot on: a terrific distillation of a topic that many don’t want to stop and consider…absolutely great.

  12. February 6, 2020 / 8:17 am

    Through brilliant posts like this and it being put more on the tv etc we are understanding more and more about mental health which can only be a good thing. Great post Caz x

  13. February 6, 2020 / 11:05 am

    Wise words Caz and as always you seem to say just what I need to hear at the right time. Thank you.

  14. February 6, 2020 / 11:28 am

    This is bang on. There is a bit of an unhealthy focus around being busy all the time. I tend to give myself a hard time if I feel like I haven’t done enough during my working hours, or if I haven’t managed to keep myself busy enough to earn some money each day. Being your own worst critic is one of the harder aspects of mental health awareness I think. Not enough people are kind about themselves – it’s something I really struggle with. Great post as always xx

  15. February 6, 2020 / 12:47 pm

    Caz I am the worlds worst at shutting myself away, not answering the phone, text messages, messengers etc., I am really hard to get through to when I want to hide.

    I generally get myself out of it as I don’t find I can talk to anyone when I am like that. Even when people have reached out to me I just close down.

  16. February 6, 2020 / 2:11 pm

    It’s sad there is a stigma attached to mental health. It prevents people from getting help or taking meds. I love your reminder that
    talking about it may help, but be prepared for negative responses. The stigma lives as long as people stay uninformed. This post will help break that chain of ignorance. Well done Caz. Thank you.

  17. February 6, 2020 / 2:31 pm

    I really applaud you for summing this difficult topic up so nicely. Like you say, mental health can be affected by many things. And it may be hard, but everyone has to find his/her own way.
    Have a wonderful Thursday, Caz xx.

  18. February 6, 2020 / 3:31 pm

    I’m really happy to see that there has been a shift about mental health and we as a whole are becoming more aware and tolerant of this disease that affects so many. But definitely like you say, there’s much still that remains to be done. I also believe in self-care and self-love as a means to live a sweeter life, one that supports our well-being, this year my focus is on just that, so you’ll read more about this on my blog. Thank you Caz for standing up and bringing this issue to the forefront and making us all aware of the ‘realness’ of it. xoxo

  19. February 6, 2020 / 4:02 pm

    I feel we are definitely more open as a nation about our mental health recently, realising that actually everyone has a mental health, be it good, tricky, going to plan or not.
    When I’m unwell physically it can have a big impact on how I feel mentally. Also the way I’m treated and how people act around my physical disability can make or break a day mentally.

  20. February 6, 2020 / 4:53 pm

    Hopefully it is getting better, but it seems that there is still a stigma attached to mental health issues. The only way to break the stigma is to talk openly about it. We all know people who have a mental health illness in some form and it is up to all of us to do something to help. Great post, Caz. It’s definitely time to talk about it.

  21. February 6, 2020 / 5:02 pm

    You make an interesting point about how everyone wants to be seen as busy, Caz. Perhaps if we just slow down and don’t worry so much about what “seems normal” then more of us will be in a better place mentally. Thanks for bringing awareness to mental health. xx

  22. February 6, 2020 / 5:52 pm

    Good post Caz. M knows the signs with me now which is good, but not when I think I can handle it and am trying to ignore it and just carry on! Hope you’ve had a good day lovely. Chat soon! xx

  23. February 6, 2020 / 6:48 pm

    genius as usual — for all the talk about mental healthy, I find that it can be daunting to actually get in to see a therapist in terms of my health insurance. & yes, the virtue of being or at least looking busy — I wonder sometimes it we’re not all stuck on some action movie soundtrack, needing to be running in order to feel signigicant?…

  24. February 6, 2020 / 8:20 pm

    Absolutely brilliant my friend. I am so proud of you for all you do to share your heart, your journey, your wins and your ‘losses.’ I think even our losses can be considered blessings, because these are where we learn and grow the most.

    My favorite thing you touched on was the obsession and glorification of busyness! I see this all of the time and have felt the sting of being considered lazy because I don’t do as much as so and so. Yet that person is so burnt out their health has failed them on every side. Busy isn’t a sign of success. It is far too often a signal that something uncomfortable isn’t being dealt with. Busy is a distraction from realities we ought to be dealing with and moving on from. My personal (humble) opinion is that some of our selfishness, immature, self-centered epidemic in western culture stems from a people who refuse to stop using busyness as an excuse to slow down, face the music and grow. What do you think?

    Your words are a comfort and a light, Caz. I needed to read this today. 🤗 Know that you are definitely not alone and you are very very loved! Sending you all my best love and big hugs! ❤

  25. February 7, 2020 / 2:43 am

    Great post! It is so important to talk about mental health. We still have a lot of barriers to break down, and the more we talk about these issues, the easier it will become!

  26. Mishka
    February 7, 2020 / 6:06 am

    So important! Thank you for bringing it to the table. I was just telling my bf that it was interesting to see so many grown men cry on TV over Kobe. That they would allow themselves that safe place to grieve in public. It made me feel like we are heading in the right direction in letting men know it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. It’s definitely an area, that through a lot of awareness, has started to evolve, thankfully. Hoping today is kind to you! 🌸

  27. February 8, 2020 / 3:07 pm

    Some great tips in this post Caz. I managed to open up on the day – I was really feeling the pressure and stress in work and once I started talking I felt so much better. It wasn’t easy, and in some ways I felt like a failure because everything was too much. But in the end I felt more successful as I was putting my wellbeing and mental health first. And that is all anyone can do 🙂

    • February 8, 2020 / 5:31 pm

      That is a success (but I don’t want to sound patronising by saying ‘well done’!) – you should be proud for opening up and saying something. It’s awful we equate struggling or feeling overwhelmed and such with failure, or with feeling pressure and needing to support with being weak. Putting yourself first, prioritising your needs, being assertive, showing vulnerability and being honest.. these are all huge positives and big steps and they take balls, Alice  ♥ xx

  28. February 8, 2020 / 10:02 pm

    Thank you, as always, for all the advocating you do!

  29. February 10, 2020 / 1:24 am

    As usual, another great post Caz! My grandmother suffered from depression and ended her life when my dad was in college. I know we’re still working towards normalizing discussions about depression and other mental illnesses, but back then it just wasn’t talked about. It was just “sadness” and mental health patients were told to perk up, or relax, or calm down, or be open minded, or (so so much) worse, find a husband. I was guilty of similar thoughts when I was younger – I wondered why wanting to watch her children grow up wasn’t enough to make my grandma happy, or the idea of one day meeting her grandchildren didn’t make her want to live. I understand now that, without any treatment, she didn’t see any other choice. That breaks my heart. I missed out on knowing a really amazing lady because no one tried to understand what it was like for her.

    It’s unacceptable that we still treat mental health different from physical health problems and that people with mental health illnesses still aren’t always accepted or believed.

    I hope we’re changing that, but certainly the place to start is by talking about it, as you have. Thanks for sharing.

    • February 10, 2020 / 4:07 pm

      I’m so sorry, Linds. Your poor grandmother, and your dad having to lose her at that age. There was a lot of that line of thinking when I was younger around mental health, too. I know it sounds judgemental and stereotyped, but I find a lot of those ingrained beliefs and thoughts in the older generation still now. Hopefully going forward it continues to change towards more understanding and compassion, and openness, because not talking doesn’t make the issue go away. It should be treated on par with physical health, you’re right. Heck, a lot of physical health needs talking about more too because there’s so much embarrassment around a lot of issues. Thank you for the thoughtful comment, and for sharing that about your grandmother  ♥ xxx

  30. February 17, 2020 / 9:26 pm

    I love your pictures…

    I’ve missed reading your posts! (And comments… I haven’t been on my email address to link to your replies).

    You look gorgeous… and your tshirt is awesome…
    I actually told someone now that the main reason I wasn’t going away with them was because of social anxiety. I’m glad I didn’t go and glad I told her so that she wouldn’t think it was because of her I wasn’t going, or that I was being a snob.

    Anyways… I’ve still got your last posts to read to catch up on….

    Thinking of you lots…

    Love, light, and glitter

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