#TimeToTalk Day 2019

Tomorrow, 7 February, is #TimeToTalk Day. The day is run by the Time To Change organisation, and is all about opening a conversation: this may be with someone who may need support; it could be to help raise general awareness of mental health issues; or it may be to help people be more sensitive and caring towards each other. I hope you join in – no special skills or resources are required, just be yourself and talk to someone. You may be pleasantly surprised at what happens.

Time To Change is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. If you’d like to find out more their website is here, and there are loads of resources available for you. I was particularly taken with this one:

So much, in fact, that I have made it my header for my personal Facebook page, so that my friends can see my support for this day. Many of them know my story, but probably not in any detail. Last year I wrote a piece for Time To Change, but they didn’t use it – probably because I didn’t submit it in the way they prefer! But it gives a potted version of my story, and why I believe this to be so important, and is worth sharing again, I think. This is what I wrote:

I was diagnosed with depression in late 2011. After months of treatment, both with medication and counselling, I finally returned to work more than nine months later. Perhaps ironically, I worked for a large NHS Trust which provided mental health services – though I didn’t live in the Trust’s catchment area – and whilst I had had a fair amount of involvement with service users in my twenty years there, most of the people I worked with hadn’t.

When I first returned, initial reactions were mostly of the ‘I haven’t seen you for a while’ variety. It was clear to me that only a few people knew why I had been off work, and I decided early on that the best way to tackle this was to be open and honest with anyone who asked about it. Not that I shouted it from the rooftops, but I wanted people to know and understand why I had been away, what it meant for me, and what it might mean for them. Some seemed apprehensive – I think they feared I might ‘have a turn’ or do something strange! The difficulty with any mental health problem is that other people can’t see it, in the same way they can see a broken leg, for example. This adds some kind of aura, a mystique, and can instil in some a fear of the unknown and unseen. I didn’t want to start some kind of crusade, but I believed it important to share my experience with anyone who asked. After all, to all intents I was the same person they had known for years, so why should they now treat me differently? Some might have had an expectation that I had changed in some way, and I wanted to reassure them that whilst the illness was a part of me I was still that same ‘me.’ People who have suffered a mental illness deserve to be respected as themselves: the illness isn’t a badge they must wear or, worse, a stigma to be borne as some sign of weakness.

I retired a little over a year later, and having already started my own blog I was aware how important it is for fellow sufferers to know that they are not alone, that others have shared something similar. But that isn’t the same for those who have been lucky enough not to suffer. I probably had around fifty conversations with co-workers in that last year at work, and made a point of telling them a few key things:

1. There is no shame in having been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness.
2. It can happen to anyone, at any time.
3. It is far more prevalent than people imagine, and it was quite likely that other people we worked with had similar problems.
4. Whilst some may not, many will welcome an initial approach of the ‘is everything ok?’ type. It does help to talk, and an informal chat can often be all that is needed to help someone.
5. Don’t be judgemental – people need to be heard, not given well-meaning ‘diagnoses’ by friends who aren’t qualified to judge.
6. Having been diagnosed doesn’t change who you are, and shouldn’t change how others see you.

I’d like to think that, in my own little way, I did something to help understanding and awareness. The important part of this was that it was on a one to one basis: I’m a great believer in the need for efforts to be made to widen the general population’s knowledge on mental health, and this low key approach is a good way to do that. Just imagine how many could be enlightened if we all had just one chat!

So, will you talk to someone tomorrow? Please? Pass it on!

 

29 thoughts on “#TimeToTalk Day 2019

  1. Yes, Clive, I will and not just on one particular day. This is a hugely important topic and one that needs to be spoken about. It’s far more prevalent these days however you’re right, people seem reluctant to talk about it, although in my experience if you bring up the subject suddenly people open up. Your experience has obviously taught you a lot. Good on you for sharing your own story with others, raising awareness and bringing this into the open. We have a lot to learn but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good on you Clive, your attitude is heartening and you must be a great help to those you come across who need help. This is a great idea, we have something like it here R U OK day where we are asked to check in with family, friends and colleagues to make sure they are doing OK. Keep up the great work you do in raising awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I worked as a ward clerk there was a senior nurse who travelled the wards saying to the ward managers “Is everything all right, dear?” However, nothing was ever done if everything wasn’t all right. Let’s hope something actually gets done regarding mental health issues in the years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, there needs to be substance to back up the words. The current government has said a fair bit about mental health but has yet to deliver – too busy following the impossible nightmare to concentrate on anything else!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Clive, you do right to raise awareness about this day and it is so true that enough cannot be done to raise this issue on both a large scale but also on a personal level. I feel that there is much more understanding about depression today than even ten years ago and people are more preapared to engage in a conversation. Yet, there is so much to be done to help people … and I am sure we all know at least one person close to us who has suffered/is suffering with this.

    Time to Change seems like an excellent organisation and I’m going to look at their website in more detail.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Annika. I agree that there is more understanding than there used to be but sadly I think the stigma are still all too common. The Time To Change website is full of useful information and if you want to go further I can also recommend the Mental Health Foundation.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed your frank post, Clive. My oldest son, now 16 years old, suffers from PTSD and chronic OCD. He had 18 serious operations as a small child and still lives with a life-long medical condition. He is an extraordinarily bright boy and that, together with major traumas, have resulted in this condition. People don’t understand his condition and, as he is clever, they think they can rationalise him out of his behavious and compulsions. I keep telling people that if he was in a wheelchair it would be obvious that he was special needs, because it is a mental condition they can’t readily see, doesn’t mean it isn’t very real.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Roberta. I’m very sorry to hear that your son suffers like that, and you’re so right to say that people don’t understand because there aren’t any obvious visible signs. I think it somehow makes people afraid to relate to mental ill health – we tend to fear the unknown, which is what this is to most. Anyone who has suffered is acutely aware of that, and of the stigmatisation that attaches to it. It’s why I started my blog, despite appearances to the contrary, and many have told me over the years that my initial set of posts (in ‘My Story’) and the numerous follow ups have helped them. We need to keep spreading this message!

      Like

  6. Important topic, Clive. Glad you were able to share openly with people. It is so sad that there is a stigma around mental health issues. For those with addiction, too, it is a double stigma.I was always talking to my patients about their mental health when I worked as a nurse, and never hesitated to ask if they were thinking of harming themselves. Depression is a matter of life and death for someone contemplating suicide.

    Liked by 1 person

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