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Time to Talk Day: Starting a conversation about mental well-being

January 29, 2024
Alexandra Hopkins

One in four of us will experience a mental health issue during any given year, so it’s very likely that we all know someone who’s struggled. Mental health issues are not unusual and they’re nothing to be ashamed of, and yet, so many of us find it difficult to open up.

Time to Talk Day takes place on the 1st February 2024. Run by Mind, and Rethink Mental Illness, and delivered by The Co-op, See Me, Inspire and Time to Change Wales, it’s the nation’s biggest mental health conversation. The aim of the day is simple: to get people talking about mental health in order to normalise mental health issues and to reduce stigma.

The campaign highlights that “sometimes it’s easier to tell people that we’re ‘fine’ than it is to say how we feel”. This is something that will resonate with many of us. Haven’t we all been in a situation where we’ve brushed something off or glossed over how we’re really feeling? Perhaps we felt too embarrassed to open up, or we didn’t want to burden people with our feelings.

The more that we talk about mental health, the easier it may become to open up about our emotions, for us and for others. Talking isn’t always easy, but it is important. There can be a good feeling that comes from getting something out into the open and being listened to and heard. This can strengthen and deepen connections with others, which benefits the listener as well as the person who’s sharing.

There is a great benefit to communal or peer support. When we are anxious or sad, it can feel natural to put up our defences, and pretend we are “ok” or “fine” and continue to “bury our heads in the sand” in the hopes that how we are feeling disappears. However, by doing this we are dismissing ourselves the right to be supported and we all deserve to be supported. Hearing yourself talk to someone about what you’re going through can help you to understand your feelings, process your thoughts and find solutions. For example, you might notice that you’re being extremely self-critical and decide to be kinder and more compassionate with yourself. The person listening may resonate how you are feeling and provide the listening ear and or empathy that you require.

Tips for talking about mental health

  1. Talk to someone you trust

When you’re ready to be vulnerable and tell someone how you’re feeling, it’s important to choose someone that you can trust. Think about who the best person to approach is, based on what you want to talk about. For example, a close family member who’s always been there for you, or a friend who has been through something similar and will understand your feelings.

Not all of us have people in our lives that we can turn to, which can make us feel lonely, especially in times where we need to talk. To build relationships, why not try getting involved in your community? Community hubs are a great place to form meaningful connections within your local area. We have more tips on how to combat loneliness, plus resources and helplines if you need them here. You can also find out more about Samaritans listening service here.

  1. Challenge your beliefs

If you’re struggling to open up, you might want to reflect on why this is. Do you have certain beliefs that are holding you back? Perhaps you’re worried that talking is a sign of weakness and that you should really be able to cope on your own? Or, do you think no one will listen, or that they won’t take you seriously?

It’s important to remember that humans are social beings and we are hardwired for connection with others. We all feel the need to talk and share how we’re feeling, so you’re definitely not ‘weak’ for opening up.

If the person that you choose to talk to is someone that you trust, how likely is it that they will reject you, based on your past relationship? With so many of us experiencing mental health problems, it’s actually quite likely that they’ve been in a situation where they’ve needed to talk to someone themselves. By opening up to them, they will know that they can come to you, too.

  1. Champion an ‘open door culture’

Research by Mind suggests that we implement an ‘open door culture’ in all settings, whether that’s at home, at work or at school. An open door culture means creating an environment where people are encouraged to talk about mental health and share experiences. This can help to reduce stigma and frames mental health as something that affects all of us in one way or another.

You could bring this up with your family, friends, classmates or colleagues to think about what changes and initiatives can be put in place to achieve an open door culture where you live, study or work.

  1. Listen mindfully

Opening up a conversation about mental health may encourage the person that you’re talking with to share their own experiences. Remember, in this situation, you don’t have to deliver the perfect response or solution. The most important thing is to listen open-heartedly, and stay curious and present. Not everyone wants advice or ideas, some people just want someone to sit with them. Asking them what they need from the conversation is a good way to start.

If you think that the person you’re talking to might be experiencing anxiety, we’ve put together some tips on how to support them here.

  1. Get involved with Time To Talk Day

Awareness days are a great way to start conversations around mental health. It can be as easy as letting a friend know about the day to bring up the subject of mental health, or sharing a post on social media. Visit the Time to Talk Day homepage and scroll down for some examples of what to post.

At ieso, we offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that focuses on practical techniques and strategies for dealing with common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Patients can login from wherever they are and ‘speak’ with a therapist by typing back and forth. Our service is free for some NHS patients. You can get started here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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