Today is ‘Time to Talk’ Day and to me this is such an important message to get across to people. Talking about mental health is crucial if we are ever going to get to the point where mental health issues are not swept under the carpet, dismissed as insignificant or seen as something only ‘weird’ people have. By talking to others people living with mental health issues can be made to feel less isolated and more supported. It really can change lives.
In today’s busy society, we seem to be in contact with each other more and somehow talk less. I am in contact with friends all the time via social media yet can feel isolated or unable to talk to people about the times when I am finding things trickier. At my lowest points, I hid it all away and showed a fake me to the world believing that people either wouldn’t want to know, not know how to react or simply disbelieve me. And I was right to feel this, I came across all of these attitudes from friends, work colleagues and others. For some time I was either unable or unwilling to talk to others about how I was struggling with life. It was a very isolated and lonely time when really I needed someone to say ‘how are you?’ or ‘are you okay?’…and be ready to listen.
I was also wrong though, this was not the attitude of everyone and things have continued to improve, both for me and it seems for the wider world. People seem more willing to listen and people seem more willing to talk. The more I talk to people about what I have gone through and still go through, the more I realise that I am not alone and that I have support for those times when I need it or am ready to ask for it.
More though needs to be done. The expert help available to those in need is woefully inadequate and this often lets people down when they need a professional to talk to. Mental health issues need to lose the stigma associated with them and people need to get over their awkwardness that often prevents them from reaching out to someone they know is having difficulties. Having anxiety, ocd or any other mental illness is nothing to be ashamed off, we ought to be able to talk about what is wrong with us in the same way that someone with a physical illness can. Only by being willing to talk about mental illness to others and having others to listen to us will mental illness stop being the elephant in the corner.
Having people to talk to and more importantly who will listen to you without judging or dismissing you matters so much when you have struggling with mental health issues. If someone opens up to you about the struggles they are having, listen to them. Don’t judge, don’t dismiss, don’t try and sort it for them. You do not need to be an expert or have ‘answers’ for them, you simply need to be there for that person. Take the time to hear what someone is saying, to check in on a friend you know is having a tough time, to simply say hello to someone. I get that it is difficult and you may feel awkward. You never know the difference that might make to someone though.
If you need someone to talk to, keep talking till you find someone who will support you in the way you need support. Talk to me, talk to a friend, talk to a group on Facebook, talk to a professional. Please just talk to someone.
Organisations you can talk to include:
Time for Change