Time to Talk Day – a day dedicated to speaking about mental wellbeing – took place last week, and it had a lot of us thinking about how we start and have conversations about such an important part of our health.
Feeling unwell in your thoughts and feelings is just as serious as being sick or hurt in other ways, yet we don’t always see it that way.
Why? Partly because sadly there is still some stigma out there about mental health, although we’ve come a long way in recent times. The reality is that 1 in 4 people  will face difficulties at one stage in their life, and there’s no age limit to when this may happen, with research suggesting young people are increasingly affected by social media and online activities .
It can sometimes be challenging to get the right support, but having an open approach to talking to others about how we or they feel could potentially have a life-changing effect.
How can I help others?
Look out for the signs… Know someone who’s become withdrawn, stressed, tired and/or generally not themselves? Check in with them.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ way to start up a conversation about mental wellbeing, but it’s important that you aren’t afraid to talk about it.
What stops you from talking to someone about how they’re feeling? Maybe feeling a bit weird about asking or worrying that you may be annoying them, but a simple conversation could be all someone wants; but they may just be too bogged down in their thoughts to start a conversation about it.
Ask even if they seem to be doing well on Facebook, or if you haven’t spoken in a while or if they seem busy. Think about it: would you be annoyed by a message from someone just interested in how you’re doing?
When you’re in a suitable environment to talk, give them your undivided attention and approach how they’re feeling. Most importantly, listen with an open mind (there’s nothing worse than being told you are being silly or that others have it worse when you are struggling).
According to UK charity the Mental Health Foundation, the average adult will say “I’m fine” as many as 14 times per week, yet only 19% actually mean it.
It can be hard to open up about not being ‘okay’, but once done the feeling of not burying what you’re feeling deep down can be a huge relief. It’s almost like that first day at school or work – you feel nervous at first, but then settle into it and it feels comfortable.
Time to Change, the folks behind Time to Talk Day have an ‘Ask Twice’ motto . If you ask someone if they’re okay, but they don’t seem it, we suggest asking again or digging a little deeper (e.g. “Cool, you know where I am if you need me” or reassuring them by being open yourself: “Nice one, having a tough day myself, if I’m honest”).
Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to ask and it depends on the person, but you could make all the difference by asking twice with interest, listening and taking what someone has to say seriously and show you’re there to talk about it when they may be ready.
How can I help myself?
Firstly, it’s important to not feel ashamed – for yourself, and others. We can all move towards change by not being scared to talk about mental health. Once you start to feel more comfortable talking about it with a friend, relative or colleague (sometimes this is easier as they can be outside of your main circle), you’ll realise how people are willing to support you, and quite possibly have been through something similar themselves.
You may want to talk to your local GP about what you’ve been feeling – there’s also a lot of support out there – some of which can be found below.
Whether doing some art, writing your feelings down or going out for a walk, the little things we don’t feel like doing when you’re down can make a difference too when it comes to everyday life.
Remember, how you share your story and making yourself open to hearing others’ struggles could make all the difference.
Some useful links:
Ashford Peer Support drop-in weekly meets at By the Tank Café (firstname.lastname@example.org/01843 448384 for details)
https://livewellkent.org.uk/ (Across Kent)
http://www.readingforwellbeing.org.uk/about-us/ (Events across Kent)
The Kitchen Table (Thurs-Sat daytime @19 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells)
The Solace Café (Thurs & Sat evenings @3 St Mary’s Rd, Tonbridge)
http://www.speakupcic.co.uk/ (Thanet, Ashford, Dover)
TakeOff www.takeoff.works (Canterbury, Thanet & Dover)
Rethink Thanet Way | Thanet Complex Needs Hub (doc)
https://www.twmhr.org.uk/thehub (Tunbridge Wells)