And while mental health should be an open discussion we can have at any time, a designated day can make it easier for people to start that conversation when they may have otherwise been “waiting for the right time”.
So I’d encourage you before reading this to check in with someone you might not have done in a while to make sure they’re alright. If you needed an excuse to do so, today is it.
Keeping with the theme, I wanted to share how small mental health conversations really help make a big difference. And while they’re not going to be a “magic fix”, they can provide some comfort to us.
Mental health conversations are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Often thrown up as the counter-argument to lockdowns, they are genuine concerns about the worsening state of our country’s mental health, especially in young people like myself.
On our last Mental Monday, I spoke about Place2Be and the Evening Standard’s Young London SOS campaign, which brings some of the stats to back this up. For example, they reported a 109% increase in self-harm and a 68% increase in suicidal thoughts with children as young as 5 having such feelings.
The NSPCC saw a 16% increase in counselling sessions delivered by Childline, a service that I often thank for helping me through my low moments.
I won’t keep throwing statistics out as we’re all aware there is a mental health crisis. But it’s important to highlight these few to show how bad it is. And demonstrate why it’s so important to be talking about our mental health.
I know talking alone isn’t going to fix this. But in a socially isolated world, I’m sure many would appreciate the genuine company of having someone there for them.
Having been through low mental health, I feel that taking really did help me. It was a way of expressing myself, in a meaningful way, and get the feelings inside of me out there. It’s the same reason why I write here on my blog or host Mental Monday. As I’ve often said, they’re more of a self-lead therapy session than anything else.
And I get it if you’re reading this thinking it’s another mental health advocate talking about talking. Everyone says we need to talk about mental health; it’s become our broken record. We’re all told about stigma and to be there for others. Etc. Etc.
But when I’m advocating for open mental health conversations, I mean whenever you need them. This should not be one conversation, a “coming out” with your issues over a cup of tea and a biscuit. We should be able to have a quick check-in with our feelings whenever we need it.
And I should probably mention this isn’t about having that trust with everyone. You have to prioritise your own mental health, as well as being there to absorb that of others. This is why I stopped Mental Monday back in 2019, I needed to look after myself. And also, some friendships don’t (and shouldn’t) have that level of trust where mental health becomes the daily subject.
But for a few close friends, who for me I mainly find in the mental health community, having mental health, not as a taboo subject, or a “here we go again” conversation has helped me immensely.
Being public about my mental health most of the people I interact with already know so there is less of a “coming out” but I totally get that first tough conversation talking to people who would have believed you were otherwise fine.
For me talking isn’t about trying to solve my mental health. It’s creating a space of trust between those that I talk to, where I can just say when I’m feeling low without needing to be prompted. It’s letting someone know they’re cared about when they’re not responsive. It’s just being there for them.
It sounds simple but sometimes the concept of talking is overcomplicated. We go into conversations trying to figure out the best way of arranging every word, finding what will help the most. Or we have those conversations and nothing changes and don’t see a point to them. But that’s because we expect talking to be the solution.
But it’s not meant to be. Talking gives you a supporter cheering you on from the sidelines. You’ve still got to run around the track, but you know that someone is there for you when you’ve made it.
So what will help you get around the track? Maybe it’s talking to a professional, someone in a place to help you. If you don’t know where to go you could find local resources, Mind, the Samaritans of even your GP. And maybe this leads beyond just “talking” to professional therapy or medication.
And there are changes you can make yourself too. Maybe that’s blocking negative voices on social media, getting your government-issued dose of exercise or finding a hobby or something to do that’s fun.
So this Time To Talk Day I wanted to share the message not to go into a mental health conversation on either side with the expectation it’s going to fix something. Or there will be something immediate, other than a smile or a laugh.
But don’t disregard talking. It’s an important part of our recovery journey which is something we’re going to need all the time. Open mental health conversations don’t need to be reserved for our darkest moments. Or even when we have low mental health.
Because we all have a mental health. And it’s something we should all talk about. Whether that’s to acknowledge we’re not feeling okay or to celebrate the fact we’ve had a positive day and feel good.
Let someone know how your mental health has been today, good or bad. Ask them how there’s was as well. Have a conversation, and you might just help someone to open up to you.
You can find more about Time to Talk Day on Time to Change’s Website.