Time to Talk Day 2018
This coming week heralds a new month. Where has January gone? And on February 1st it is “Time to Talk Day 2018”. The aim of this day is to get people talking about mental health issues and reduce the taboo. To make it easy for people to ask for help when they need it without feeling as if they will be judged.
No matter who you are, where you are, what you do, what age you are, we all have mental health. Like our physical health we all have the potential to suffer from poor health from time to time.
Mental Health issues don’t discriminate. They could affect any one of us at any time. However, while people will talk freely about their physical ailments or illnesses without being concerned about how others will react or what they will conclude. Many of us have found or do find it hard to talk about our mental health.
1 in 4 of us could be suffering in silence.
“Time to Talk” aims to take away the taboo of talking about your mental health – you should be able to talk about it anywhere and with anyone and not be judged. If you were off work with a broken leg and came back, no-one would blink when you told them why you were off.
Mental Health v Physical Health
Why should it be any different if had been off for a similar period if you were off due to depression? The simple answer is, it shouldn’t. Historically though, we all know that is not the case and often mental health issues would be brushed under the carpet, the individuals measured by their illness and not their capabilities or strengths.
Why should mental health be looked upon any differently? Having a broken leg doesn’t define you as a person, it is not who you are. Likewise your mental health shouldn’t define you. When you recover from poor physical health, no-one would refer to you as “the broken leg guy”, likewise no-one should refer to anyone using their mental health to define them – oh look there is that “depressed guy”. Nope it is just that guy, who maybe he happened to have a battle with depression, but he is a person, no different to anyone else.
It’s Good to Talk
The vast majority of us learn to talk from an early age, and we are encouraged to learn and expand our vocabulary as we grow. We learn big words, we learn different languages. It is ultimately something we do without thought on a daily basis. And I’m sure we all know a lot of people who talk without thinking…
But sometimes talking is the hardest thing in the world to do. Even saying two seemingly small simple words is impossible to do – “help me”. To some, these may be the most difficult words they ever have to utter.
Sometimes you don’t talk because you think too much. You make up seemingly valid reasons why you can’t talk about it. These reasons may seem logical to you.
So, you don’t say anything. Then because you don’t talk, you think more, you worry more, your anxieties grow exponentially, your mood changes. You build on your previous thoughts. You embellish them. They become Bunyanesque. You can no longer deal with them.
The more you think, the worse you feel and the harder it becomes to talk. You feel stupid, you feel weak, you feel worthless, and you feel hopeless.
There is the vicious circle as it becomes easier not to talk. It becomes hard to leave the house, to do the things you used to enjoy, to socialise would be like asking you to walk into a den of lions.
You isolate yourself and the only contact you have is with the people closest to you and you are horrible to them. This results into you spiralling deeper as you have hurt the ones you love the most.
Sometimes they are the ones it is hardest to open up to. You feel you are a failure and you’re letting them down. They have enough on their plates without having to deal with a waste of space like you…
Things build up. You can only take it for so long. Something has to give….
Sounds shit, right? Well, all I can say is that, it may be the hardest thing in the world to do. But once you take that first step, it gets easier. It may feel like stepping into a void and you don’t know what will happen, but let me re-assure you. You aren’t the only one out there feeling that way. You won’t be the first and you certainly won’t be the last.
Take that step
If you have thought about talking to someone then decided against it. Think again. It doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you a failure, and it does not make you a burden. Quite the opposite – it is the first step on the path to making you a stronger person, you are heading on the road to success and you are relieving the burden from yourself. A weight will lift, it may not be instantaneous, but talking is the start of that process.
Even if it is just saying 3 little words. “I need help”. That could be the biggest phrase in the world.
You may be surprised when you talk. You will come across people who have had similar experiences, but like you, haven’t talked about them.
For years the way I coped with things was bottling things up. What good did that do me? Absolutely none at all. If I think about it over the years:
- I have had countless pointless arguments
- On a number of occasions it has resulted in me drinking too much and making a fool of myself
- It resulted in me not having the courage to do things or try things in life I’d like to have
- I have ruined friendships/relationships, lost touch with people I really shouldn’t have
- Ultimately, it became too much and it resulted in illness and an extended period off work.
That’s just scratching the surface. In reality, much, if not all of this could have been stopped, if only I had talked to someone about how I was feeling earlier. That may sound like over-simplifying things but talking helps.
What happens after that first conversation will probably be different for every single person. What is right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. But one thing is for sure, it is that first conversation that is the first step on the path to better mental health.
Although my mental health doesn’t define me, it is still part of me, and I realise that it is a part of me that I need to be aware of and manage. Part of that management for me is continuing to talk about it, to ensure I continue to do the things that help me to keep mentally fit.
If you are one of the 3 in 4 that haven’t suffered from poor metal health, this message is just as important to you.
If someone talks to you about their mental health, think about how hard that first step has been for them. Think about the inner strength it has taken for them to admit they need help. Think about what they may have been thinking or feeling about themselves and do not judge them. Listen. Be a good friend.
You might not ultimately be the one that can give them the help they need to recover, but they have shown they trust you enough to have spoken to you. You are the one they have opened up to. If you show you care and you are willing to listen, it will make it easier for them to talk and continue to talk, finding the right person to talk to that can give them the help they need.
So, on the 1st of February, remember this old phrase “It’s Good to Talk”. Then remember that again on the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th. You get the picture…
For more information and help about Time to Talk Day 2018 got to the Time to Change website.