Mental illness isn’t the easiest topic discuss – but we can all help to make it not so hard.
Talking about mental health is one of the most important steps we can take individually, and collectively, to help break down the stigma and feeling of isolation surrounding mental health… and considering one in four people are affected by mental heath problems, this is not a niche issue.
Simply stating a conversation about mental health can help people to feel not so alone, encourage them to take the first steps towards getting life-changing support and alter the way society treats people with a mental illness on a much larger scale.
Thursday 7th February 2019 is Time to Talk Day. So, it’s time for me to get honest and put my money (or my words) where my mouth is.
I live with anxiety. Some days it’s good, other days it’s bad. As mental illnesses come, it’s a pretty common one (and I’ve no doubt that modern culture has some role to play in this). The NHS states that up to 5% of the UK population are affected by Generalised Anxiety Disorder and it is slightly more common in women than in men. Stonewall also notes that 61% of LGBT people in Britain have experienced anxiety, alongside 79% of non-binary people.
After a pretty tough period during 2017 and parts of 2018, I can safely say that the biggest improvements I have made in terms of managing my mental health has been down to talking. Talking to doctors, talking to friends, talking to my partner, talking to family, talking to my employer… it’s a lot of talking.
It’s not always perfect, easy, pretty or comfortable, but it’s always helpful in the long run.
Talking with friends and family helped to take a weight off my chest about how I was behaving or why I might appear disconnected. Talking to doctors helped me to accept I had a problem; but that there were ways to address it. Talking to a therapist helped me to open up about the things that were holding me back. Talking to my boss helped me to get the support I needed from work to make day-to-day life easier. Talking to my partner helped him to realise that maybe things were a little worse than I was letting on. Talking to my brother and new friends helped to form much stronger relationships based on honesty and shared feelings.
Like I said, it wasn’t always comfortable or pretty (let’s be real, it can be pretty ugly when you delve into mental health). But for every time anxiety knocked me down, a conversation with someone took me one step closer towards learning how I could manage my mental health in a positive, constructive and kind way.
If you’re waiting for a sign to make that first step towards getting help, or starting that first conversation about how you really feel, please take Time to Talk Day as that big, flashing sign. It can be with anyone you feel comfortable with – and if you don’t have that just yet, that’s what doctors and the numerous mental health charities are there for. They are there to listen to you, and offer help.
If you want to start a conversation with someone you’re worried about, remember to be gentle, open and caring. It’s a big topic, but be brave and offer that first helping hand. There’s some great tips here about how to start that conversation, if you’re worried about it being awkward or unhelpful.
It’s small steps, honest conversations and open minds that will help to end the stigma around mental illness, to ensure people get the support they really need. So, let’s talk.