What’s It All About?
February 7th 2019 marks Time To Change’s UK initiative for mental health – Time to Talk Day.
The campaign focusing on stigma, promoting the on opening up of conversations where embarrassment, shame or social norms may prevent people from otherwise sharing their problems.
Why Talking Mental Health Is Important
Many of us will experience some kind of mental health issue to some degree in our lives, from anxiety and eating disorders, to depression and schizophrenia. While it’s now more openly talked about than it once was, mental health still gets a bad rap. We’re all human, we all have our own struggles, and yet we can often feel closed off from others when it involves our mental wellbeing.
If you’re worried or struggling and need help, embarrassment, shame and fear of the response you’ll receive can all stop you from reaching out.
Keeping your struggles to yourself can get exhausting. It’s a heavy burden to bear. But you’re not alone, and you needn’t go through this journey on your own.
It’s Time to Talk
This initiative is about opening the lines of communication. To friends, family, partners and colleagues, it’s about having a chat and relieving a little of that burden.
Talking and sharing can help you lift that weight off your shoulders. It can show you you’re not alone. It can provide you with some support. It can free up your resources from feeling isolated and hopeless, to move forward with more strength.
I think you need to make the decision to talk, who you tell, and what you talk about. Please seek professional support if you need it, such as your GP, or call a support line, like Samaritans, if you need someone outside of your life to listen.
Most of the time, hopefully, the response will be positive. They may be surprised, especially if you’ve hidden your struggles so well, or they may have wondered if something was wrong. You may be surprised that they confide in you that they’ve been through something similar.
Online support groups, forums and Facebook pages can be wonderful outlets to share your experiences. These communities are often accepting, warm and a source of strength and understanding.
Of course, you may not want to talk about what’s going on, and that’s okay. Or you may find some people close to you are simply not receptive to mental health and that seemingly nothing will change their ways and ignorance. For instance, many people find this with a generation gap, where thoughts were very different many years ago. Some people are just cruel, plain and simple. And yes, sometimes the response you get may not be a positive one.
This is where things need to change. Conversations about mental health should be accepted and encouraged, so that those who want to speak, can do so without fear or shame or embarrassment, and without stigma, ignorance and judgement getting in the way.
My Experience Of Talking Mental Health – Good & Bad
I feel this is important to say because there will be people who experience this, and the key is knowing how to deal with it. The responses you get can’t always be predicted and not everyone will respond well or in a supportive manner. For instance, when I was about 12, I started struggling with bulimia. I told someone, who I thought was a friend, because I was scared; I felt like it might get out of hand and I didn’t know what to do. This person told someone else. Long story short, this knowledge was used as blackmail. I received some horrible messages from certain people, about how I should look in the mirror and make myself sick to make myself feel better because I was a waste of space, and about how I should do everyone a favour and kill myself. It didn’t matter that this was a small part of my life, it was used against me and even on my medical records it feels like a black mark.
Of course, I would deal with things like this far better now that I am older, more resilient, more confident and, most importantly perhaps, more assertive. But back then? It wasn’t pleasant. Even in my adult days, I’ve found some people can be very quick to judge, and that’s within friendship circles, families, and among work colleagues and partners.
That said, many more people will be open to talking and compassionate, and quite likely having had their own experiences where mental health is concerned, too.
I have dealt with mental health issues and anxiety and depression in the last few years and I’ve had good and bad experiences of talking about it.
But what I can say is that it was a huge weight off my shoulders to say it out loud and not feel like it’s some dirty little secret. To not have to hide it all, all the time. It’s isolating and exhausting constantly putting on a smile and pretending, and you miss out on growing as a person when you’re stuck with all of this secret life suffocating you.
Roar Without Apology
It’s time we make our voices heard. Enough stigma, enough bullying, enough judgemental ignorance. We are who we are. We are all human & we all have our struggles, some just hide them very well. There’s no shame in what we deal with and it often takes guts to have these conversations. If you think someone may be struggling, ask how they are. Let them know you’re there if they need anyone to talk to or just to be there. Reach out if you need someone. We need to be the change we want to see when it comes to mental health.
Our courage can be a quiet roar, but we will all roar together. You are not alone.