It's time to talk and time to stop feeling ashamed.
Digital team's blog
On the 2nd of February, Time to Change will be holding their Time to Talk Day across England, to encourage people to be open about their mental health. In this special blog, Seb from the digital team, talks about his own connection to mental illness and why it is so important to start the conversation.
When I first started to experience anxiety, and then depression, at university, I kept a wary silence about what I was going through. I thought the racing thoughts, the adrenaline and the sleepless nights were unique to me; I didn’t think it was normal, I didn’t think anyone would understand. I walked around, saying hi to my friends and classmates, fretting about whether they’d noticed that something was wrong with me.
It was months before I opened up for the first time – to an older student doing the same course as me who, in my eyes, was endlessly cool, smart and capable. She told me that she’d been through something similar: that she understood what I felt, and I wasn’t strange or abnormal. That conversation changed my life: it was the first step in coming to terms with depression and anxiety. It showed me that mental illness wasn’t something to be ashamed of, and that other people experienced it too.
Today, several years later, I do a lot of things to keep myself well – including mindfulness, medication and exercise. But I don’t think anything helps as much as talking – to friends, family, colleagues, whoever will listen. Being able to be open about mental health is so crucial to me – because dealing with a mental illness is hard enough without having to worry about how people react, and having to keep it secret as a result.
But not everyone has that luxury: in too many families, workplaces and communities, mental health is swept under the carpet, and the people that need to talk the most are made to feel ashamed of what they’re experiencing. Indeed, research by Time to Change shows that people with a mental illness wait for more than a year on average before telling their loved ones about their diagnosis. Think about that: a year spent worrying about what people’s reactions, feeling isolated, and keeping a heavy secret.
We all have a responsibility to open up to mental health and make people with mental health problems feel comfortable. And if you’re wondering what you can do to help, the answer is easy: just start a conversation.
Ask someone you know, whether they’ve had a mental health problem or not, how they’re doing, and when they say “I’m fine,” dig a little deeper. Give someone the space to express how they’re feeling, and show them that you won’t judge them for opening up. You never know: that conversation might change someone’ life, like a conversation changed mine.
This is the idea behind Time to Talk Day on 2 February: it’s a national movement to have as many conversations as possible in a single day. So join the nation in getting talking: whether you share a cup of tea with a colleague, call a member of your family or drop a text to an old friend, you’ll be making a big difference. And together, who knows? Maybe we can break down the silence around mental illness for good.
Time to Talk day 2017 takes place on Friday 2nd of February - visit the Time to Change website to download posters, leaflets and social media sharable images!
Want to hear more from Seb? Follow him on Twitter!