The number of people who are affected by mental health is rising. In 1990, 416 million people suffered from depression or anxiety worldwide – these numbers rose to 615 million in 2013 (World Health Organisation, 2016).
Current figures state that each year in Britain an estimated one in four adults will experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem, though only 230 of every 300 who need help will actually visit their GP.
Mental illness is extremely common and exists in different forms, each of which can have an adverse effect on your well-being.
It’s easy to think there’s no right place or time to talk about mental health. But the more we talk about it, the better life is for all of us.
Too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.
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.
Time to Change recommends the following tips for starting a conversation:
We know talking about mental health is not always easy. But starting a conversation doesn’t have to be awkward and being there for someone can make a huge difference.
- Start small
Many people find talking in person daunting, intimidating, and that’s understandable. But it doesn’t need to stop you from starting a conversation altogether. You could make a quick phone call, send your best mate a text, or leave a note for a parent.
- Find a good time & place
Find a place with an informal atmosphere, perhaps in a café or over a coffee as it shouldn’t feel like a formal interview. Or alternatively, if you do talk in person, you might want to chat while you are doing something else. You could start a conversation when you’re walking, cooking or stuck in traffic?
- Ask questions
There are lots of misconceptions around mental illness, so asking questions is an important way of learning. Just remember that potentially, discussion might make someone feel uncomfortable. Ask open questions such as “how does this make you feel,” to get the best responses.
- Be open and honest
Being open and honest with other people can help to build trust. Just remember though, don’t feel pressure to share anything that you are not comfortable with. Also, use positive body language and encourage the person to continue with small verbal comments like ‘I see’ or ‘what happened next?’. This will let them know that you are paying attention to what they are saying and actively listening to them
- Treat them the same
When someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, they’re still the same person as they were before. This means when a friend or loved one opens up about mental health, they don’t want to be treated any differently. If you want to support them, act the same with them.
By Reece Hobson.