Their aim is to encourage open and honest dialogue about mental health in communities, places of education and workplaces. Here are their official aims –
- Improve public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems.
- Reduce the amount of discrimination that people with mental health problems report in their personal relationships, their social lives and at work.
- Make sure even more people with mental health problems can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and on-line.
- Create a sustainable campaign that will continue in communities and workplaces long into the future.
I’m fully behind what they’re trying, and succeeding, to do.
To help achieve these aims they have a Time to Talk day each year. I spoke to the people behind Time to Talk recently and they suggested writing about a conversation that impacted my life, to encourage people to start talking about mental health. I’ve been wracking my brain for one particular conversation that did that and I really can’t think of one specific conversation (ironically, my memory sometimes takes a hit thanks to my mental health *eye rolling*). To me, every conversation I have about mental health impacts my life because every conversation means that more people are talking about it. Campaigns like Heads Together, Young Minds and MQ Mental Health are all helping to make it a more common thing to discuss, but there’s a big difference between sharing things about mental health on social media and actually talking about it in ‘real life’.
I remember one of the first conversations about my mental health that I had in person out in public, surrounded by other people. My neighbour asked me how I was, and how everything was going. Specifically, they asked how my anxiety was and how I was coping at the moment. I hate the physical / mental comparisons but they are still sometimes necessary to get the point across – they had asked me as nonchalantly as if they were asking about a sprained ankle. It caught me slightly off guard, in a good way, and we had a chat about how I was and shared a few common experiences as they had dealt with some similar issues. I think that when someone has had some similar experiences, they feel more able to talk about it. When someone has no experience of it themselves it can feel a bit like unchartered territory but I promise it’s not that scary, it’s not Mordor.
It’s super important to show your support for mental health stuff online – insta, twitter, Facebook etc. – and I know that the mental health community rely greatly on support from each other; people who understand what they’re going through and lots of them have connected via twitter, Facebook etc. with shared mental health experiences. But it’s equally important to put that support into practice in person. Campaigns like Time to Talk wouldn’t exist to the level they do without online presence, but what they really want you to do is speak to people face to face.
Person to person, honestly and openly. But not just person to person – employees to employers, schools to pupils, universities to students. If my school or uni had given us any kind of information about mental health; what it is, the symptoms to look out for and where I could have got help, I honestly don’t think I would be in the position I am in now. There’s a lot to be said for an employer/school/friend who is prepared to fuck the stigma and stand up and say “okay so 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with shitty mental health within a year. That’s a lot of people and chances are that, at some point, you might be one of them. We’re fine with that and just want you to know that there’s support available.” At which point they will hand out lots of lovely helpful, friendly, accessible information as supplied by Mind, Rethink, Time to Change etc. And then they will say “you are not alone and we are there for you” and it could genuinely change someone’s life. Ps. use of the word shitty is optional.
I feel that most conversations about mental health happen either very publicly, loudly and obviously, or very quietly, privately and secretly. There is nothing wrong with either of these but I think we’re missing out on the middle ground. Where mental health is discussed in the same places and conversations that we discuss Hollyoaks, potential Glastonbury headliners, how shit iPhone batteries are, the weather, Stranger Things, where you’re going on holiday, and if people really eat squished avocado on toast with eggs on top or just make it for instagramming purposes (genuine question?!). Mental illness causes you to feel isolated, ashamed, and unworthy of help, and what we need to do is make sure that people (should they wish) feel like they can talk about it and break that isolation. By talking about it in hushed tones we are just reinforcing the stigma and the stereotype that it’s something that should be kept private or not discussed openly. By shouting it from the roof tops we are helping to break down stigmas but can be implying that if you aren’t shouting about your own mental health then you’re somehow ‘doing it wrong’. Sometimes people (and I include myself in these people) feel like they’re somehow not ‘qualified’ to talk about mental health; if they don’t really understand it and don’t feel they can help. I assure you that if you listen and be kind, you will be helping.
The dream is that everyone who wants to talk about their mental health feels that they can, and that they have a non-judgemental, supportive space to do that. If you want to speak out publicly about your mental health experiences or what you’re currently going through then I would always encourage this, as I’ve really benefitted from speaking out about mine. If you don’t feel like you’re in that place then that’s totally fine and I’d encourage you to have a private chat about it instead, because I can basically guarantee that you will feel better about it afterwards. You can hold me to that. If you are absolutely fine but you want to show your support then share some stuff on social media, make it clear that you’re up for listening and maybe use your voice to encourage your school / community / workplace to be open and supportive of mental health.
I’ve said in posts before, I had little choice but to tell people about my anxiety when it first hit because I was a visible trembling wreck of a person and it was very obvious, but I have since learnt how to hide it very well meaning that a lot of people don’t know. I know how hard it can be to talk about mental health. I know how difficult it can be to tell new people – new friends, people you like, new employers, new hairdressers, new therapists, new psychologists. I know how difficult it can be to tell your oldest, best friends. Your closest family. Your soulmate. I know how it feels to have people say “but you seem fine, I wouldn’t know!”. Having to go over it all again and find the best words you can to describe it so that it makes sense to other people. I have had these conversations many times and they definitely get easier but there’s always a part of you wishing that you weren’t having to have them. You’re not alone, I’m right there with you and the more people you chat to about mental health then the more people you’ll be helping to understand. We all have mental health and sometimes people just need to be reminded of that.
And in the spirit of it being Time to Talk, and as always, you’re welcome to ask me anything and please like / share this. x
Also, here’s a link to my post from last years’ Time to Talk day, which is possibly (definitely) better than this one.
Also also, here’s a little bird playing with a paper towel. You’re welcome.