It’s that time of year again… It’s Time To Talk about Mental Health!
What Is ‘Time To Talk’ About Mental Health?
As part of the Time To Change campaign, Time To Talk Day on 1st February 2018 raises awareness of mental health and illness and encourages people to discuss their struggles. It’s about beating down stigma, increasing understanding and reducing prejudice. It’s about saying that it’s okay to talk about these things. That you’re not alone.
I’ve dealt with, and still deal with, my own mental health issues. They will affect many of us over the course of our lives in some way, either affecting our lives directly or touching our lives through the experiences of friends, colleagues and loved ones. With chronic invisible illness, mental health often features close by.
I think there’s a difference between the ups and downs in life that will affect everyone at some point (often in response to an event) and long-lasting, life-affecting conditions, from depression and anxiety to bipolar and schizophrenia. But no matter what you’re going through, big or small, temporary or chronic, it’s okay. There should be no judgement or prejudice. Society has come a long way towards greater understanding, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s a continual process of growth and change.
Over the years, I’ve become more open in discussing the challenges I’ve faced personally, but there have been countless times that doing so has been harmful to me; people who don’t understand and offer hurtful or unhelpful comments whether intentional or not; when I was blackmailed the first time I told someone of an eating disorder when I was only 12/13 years old; those that are judgemental; having someone say I had nothing to be sad about because there are people starving in Africa; the feeling of being judged and labelled in general.
In contrast, I’ve also found, especially online, a lot of others in a similar situation. I’ve found people who are open, caring, compassionate, wanting to understand, patient and non-judgemental. Anxiety, eating disorders and depression have been featured throughout my life. Anxiety and depression can be a crushing force in my life today. Being able to ‘get it out there’ is like a weight off my shoulders. They’re not things you can simply “get over”. They don’t disappear.
But… Talking about them for me doesn’t really help. I’m glad I can more easily say that I’ve struggled and still struggle with certain things, but I don’t often feel the need to talk more in depth about them. I’m at the point where I’m perhaps too self-reflective, too analytical and talking about things tends to exacerbate it. And if you feel the same then that’s okay, too. However, for those who live in fear and worry of letting others in, opening up to someone can make a world of difference. Sharing even small things can make people realise they’re not alone, and perhaps even stop the threads of mental health from being pulled until they unravel and the blanket is threadbare.
The point of the campaign is that it should be okay to talk about mental health anywhere, any time, without fear of judgement, criticism or prejudice.
Talking About Mental Health
Mental health is something that’s incredibly personal. The likes of depression, bipolar, anxiety and eating disorders can turn you in on yourself, becoming incredibly isolating. It’s up to YOU whether you want to tell anyone about what you’re going through. It’s also your call as to what and how much you share. From my experience, not talking about it can hurt relationships, just as talking about it can when the other person is ignorant or offensive. But you’ll find that more often than not the other person will likely have their own issues, and be more understanding and supportive than you could ever have anticipated.
Every experience I’ve had with talking and not talking has shaped me and made me more passionate when it comes to mental health. In particular, the negative experiences I’ve had have made me more driven to tell others about what I’m going through and to raise awareness and push for greater understanding. No one should be made to feel alone, bad, wrong, silly, ungrateful, or small for what they’re going through. There’s no comparison between your situation and that of others. Your experience is yours alone. With mental health, there’s often no particular “thing” to point the finger at in terms of why you feel the way you do. You just do. And that’s okay. It’s also okay to talk about it.
Often when we’re asked how we are, the response is along the lines of “I’m fine, thanks”. Do you ever wish you could say more, do you ever want or need to open up a little, share what you’re going through?
In the name of sharing, openness & honesty, if I were to talk to you right now I’d say that I’ve not been doing so great. My anxiety has been running rampant, my brain is mush, my body is exhausted & I’ve been feeling pretty low. Things haven’t been pretty. I’m riding it out and I’ll turn things around, but I’m skirting rock bottom again first and taking the less scenic route before coming back up for air. If you were to talk right now, what would you say?
For me, Time To Talk isn’t just about sharing your experience to get support. It’s as much about increasing understanding and working towards creating a more tolerant, compassionate and non-judgemental society.
You can find out more about the Time To Change campaign here.
Need Further Help?
For support around mental health for yourself or a loved one, reach out to specialist charities or a medical professional.
Telephone: 116 123 (Free 24 hours a day) Email: email@example.com Website: www.samaritans.org
Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am-4pm Monday to Friday) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rethink.org/about-us/ourmental-health-advice
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-5pm Monday to Friday) Email: email@example.com Website: www.mind.org.uk/help/advice_lines