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Mental Health: Let’s Talk!

by on March 24, 2011

ANYONE BRAVE (OR FOOLHARDY) ENOUGH to follow my personal blog will know that I’m a bit of a Coldplay fan; and as I prepare this post I’m listening to one of my favourite tracks, Talk:

Are you lost or incomplete?
Do you feel like a puzzle,
you can’t find your missing piece?
Tell me how you feel
Well I feel like they’re talking in a language I don’t speak
And they’re talking it to me…

So you don’t know where you’re going and you wanna talk
And you feel like you’re going where you’ve been before
You’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, but you feel ignored
Nothing’s really making any sense at all

Let’s talk…

Mind Blog, 24/03/2011: It's time to talk, it's Time to Change

Mind Blog, 24/03/2011: It's time to talk, it's Time to Change

Talk is the subject of today’s Mind blog post by Kate Stringer: It’s time to talk, it’s Time to Change, part of the Time to Change campaign to end the stigma that surrounds mental illness — because the only way we’ll raise awareness, that we’ll ever achieve that aim, is by talking about it:

Our campaign Time to Change, is trying to break down the stigma attached to mental health problems, quite simply by getting people talking.

Research for Time to Change has consistently shown that people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems are better when they have had the opportunity to hear first hand from someone who has experienced a mental health problem about what it’s like.

You might think that, with one in four of us affected by mental health problems at some point, all of us would have had this opportunity – all of us should know someone affected and have spoken to them about it.

But this isn’t the case. As a society, mental health isn’t a subject we’re open about. We feel afraid – either to talk about our own mental health problems (for fear of how people will react), or to talk to someone we know has been affected about it (maybe for fear of having an awkward conversation, or of not knowing quite the right thing to say)…

Kate concludes with an invitation:

What are your experiences of talking about mental health?  Tell us in the comments below or join the conversation on the Time to Change Facebook page.

I’ve left my response, a brief summary of how I became involved with mental health issues myself — through conversation on twitter, thanks to @bourach and @serialinsomniac — and how things have worked out since, with conversations getting easier the more of them I’m involved in, and the more time I allow for them:

Hi – I’m the founder of the new mental health safety net organisation, 5 Quid for Life, just launched this year to raise funds to provide support for people with mental health difficulties facing possible loss of income, homes or — worst case scenario — even their lives as a consequence of the changes being imposed on the UK benefits system.

What I’ve found is simply this: the more I talk about mental health issues, the easier it becomes! At first I was hesitant: I’m not mentally ill, so who am I to talk about mental illness? But the fact is, a lot of my friends and some members of my own family do have / have had mental health difficulties — and I’ve found that all they need to start talking about their difficulties is an opportunity, a trigger. That’s all: like you say here, “How are you feeling?” — just those few words can unleash a torrent, like a dam bursting.

Trouble is, of course, that can be scary if the person asking the question isn’t ready for it, if you’re pushed for time; so the other thing that’s needed as well as the question is time: time to listen, time to take it in, maybe even time for a gentle hug where that’s appropriate. Time to comment on blog posts — time to tweet!

That’s actually how I got involved in mental health issues: through twitter. I can’t remember quite where it started: I was twittering away about something or other, @bourach replied, @serialinsomniac said something and before I knew it, a whole network opened up in front of me and suddenly here we are with this new project, 5 Quid for Life, already featured with a full page spread in One in Four magazine…

There’s a lot of talk about negative triggers in mental health circles, in the madosphere: warnings about triggery posts and so on; but what we need are more positive triggers — simple words to release words. I’d urge anyone who’s on the threshold of a conversation to take that next step, to take the risk of opening the door, even if you only open it a little crack, just enough to let a little light in — then watch the darkness scatter!

I don’t know where the conversations we’ve started will go next; but I’m very glad we started them and equally glad that I can be part of this conversation: thank you.

Now it’s your turn: why not head on over there and join the conversation? Let’s talk!

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