By: Emily Maybanks
Time to Talk Day, which falls on Thursday 1st February 2018, is an initiative run by Time to Change, the growing social movement changing how we all think and act about mental health. According to their website, “1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem every year.” Imagine being in a lecture theatre of 200 students and 50 of them having a mental health problem. Furthermore, “mental health problems affect people that you know and your attitude can affect their life.”
We live in a society and a world where there are so many mental health charities and initiatives, all created to raise awareness of the variety of mental health problems and all aiming to help those with mental health difficulties, as well as to try to change people’s perceptions of and attitudes towards mental health, and talking about mental health.
Talking about mental health is extremely important for a wide range of reasons. Firstly, as difficult as it may be, reaching out for support and admitting that you are struggling with a mental health difficulty is the first step to being able to better manage your mental health and allow people to support you. From my own experience and something that I had never heard of or thought about before it happened to me, following a major operation I had last April after a long period of serious illness, I found that, despite feeling physically better than I had done in months, mentally, I was struggling enormously and even though I’ve experienced both depression and anxiety on and off for several years, being told I was “post-operatively depressed” was one of the toughest moments in terms of my mental health journey. However, talking about how I was feeling – to my doctor, to my friends – really reassured me that I wasn’t going crazy, like I thought I was.
From another point of view, talking about mental health also has the power to change peoples’ attitudes towards mental health. Sharing your story about your mental health journey and experiences can prove to be an empowering and inspiring tool for enabling others to reach out for support and feel reassured that they are not the only ones to experience mental health difficulties. Earlier this week, I attended a session run by the charity Student Minds, who I have recently started blogging for also. This session was insightful and informative and a discussion about how storytelling can have quite an impact in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, in particular student mental health. Interestingly, at this talk, I was introduced to a concept known as the ‘mental health continuum’ which summarises the link between mental health problems and mental wellbeing; for example, someone can have a diagnosed serious mental health problem but can maintain good mental wellbeing – with the appropriate support in place. I think that having the courage to share your own mental health story can often lead to a domino effect of others beginning to do the same.
Time to Talk Day 2018 seeks to get everyone talking about mental health wherever they are. “There’s no right or wrong way to get involved – every conversation about mental health helps to make it a normal subject for people to talk about. Too often, it’s left to people with mental health problems to talk about mental health. It’s treated as a taboo subject – something to only be spoken about in quiet corners. But mental health affects us all, and everyone should feel able to talk about it. That’s why, for Time to Talk Day 2018, we [Time to Change] want to spread the word that wherever you are, any place can be the right space to talk about mental health.”
Whether you’re having a drink in JC’s, taking a walk on the beach, or recovering from a night out; talk about mental health this Thursday.