You may not have heard of the Time To Change initiative, which is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, two of the leading mental health organisations in the UK, and is funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the National Lottery.
Time to Change began seven years ago and is England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. It aims to start a conversation – or thousands of conversations – about aspects of mental health, to help people become more comfortable talking about it. They have a range of activities in progress, which you can read about here on their website. There is also plenty of useful information there, so it is well worth a visit. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and if you use the hashtag for their campaign – #TimeToTalk – you should see what people are saying and doing.
Estimates usually suggest that around one in four people will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and that 90% of these are likely to experience discrimination. It is commonplace in our culture: witness the large furore last year when Asda and Tesco sold ‘mental patient’ costumes for Halloween. They may not have done this again this year but plenty of others did. I don’t recall seeing any ‘cancer patient’ or ‘irritable bowel patient’ costumes though. Use of words like ‘mental’ and ‘nutter’ is also frequent, and whilst most of us have the ability to bypass this there are some to whom it is acutely hurtful.
In Time To Change’s words: You don’t need to be an expert to talk about mental health or to be there for someone experiencing a mental health problem. Small actions, like sending a text, chatting over a cuppa, or giving them a call to find out how they are can really make a big difference and show someone that you care.
I know from my own experience that when I was off sick for nine months with depression calls from friends were always very welcome. I hope I’ve been able to help others too, either directly or, via this blog, indirectly. Time To Change have a Pledge Wall, to which over 70,000 people have pinned their own pledge to help fight against stigmatisation and discrimination against mental illness. I have made my pledge, and if there isn’t anyone in my life who needs my support I can always blog about it, can’t I? So, please take a moment to think about this. Do you know someone who would appreciate a chat with you, however brief, and would welcome someone who asks ‘how are you?’ and wants to know the answer? Even if you can’t do that right now, you can still make your pledge on the Wall. There are plenty of ways of having that conversation and who knows, it might one day be you who needs the chat.
PS I know this is very much aimed at readers on this side of the Atlantic, but the issues addressed by Time To Change are universal. So please check what is available where you live. In the USA, for example, there is the Stand Up For Mental Health campaign. Their logo is at the top of this site: you should be able to click on it to be taken to healthyplace.com but if it doesn’t work click here.