#TimeToTalk Day 2020


Tomorrow, 6 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 might 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 poster:

There are many other resources there too: from quizzes, games and puzzles to prompts on how to start a conversation. Please take time to visit their website: it is very informative and you’ll find helpful tip cards, like this one:

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for Time To Change, but they didn’t use it – probably because I submitted it too late, and not in the way they prefer! But it gives a potted version of my story, and why I believe this to be so important, so is worth sharing again, I think:

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!

As it says in the image below, one in four of us will be affected by mental health issues at some point in our lives. That is a huge number and, as I said in the piece I wrote (above) there are often no visible signs that someone is suffering. Mental health problems can be all-encompassing, taking over your life, and it can be incredibly valuable to feel that there is support for you. So, will you talk to someone tomorrow? Please? Pass it on!

 

20 thoughts on “#TimeToTalk Day 2020

  1. I think you’re doing a grand job of informing people about mental illness and depression. Yes it can happen to anyone at any time. I worked with a young girl who was fine one day, and then took 6 months off with depression and panic attacks. She struggled to even get out of bed. It took her a couple of years to recover.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I honestly believe our modern lifestyles are to blame for a lot of mental health issues, Clive. So many people suffer from depression I am surprised that your colleagues were not completely used to this sort of thing. Most people I know in South Africa are on anti depressants because of the incredibly high crime rate which has impacted most people in some way or another. A most interesting post, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I saw a news report yesterday about the footballer Daniel James who recently went to a group set up for men who get together not only to play football but to also talk and support each other, Clive. The guy who set the group up lost his best friend and best man to suicide. He took action and set up the group, which has become a success and helped a lot of men. Daniel said he’d also had problems coping after the death of his father. I think men find it much harder to speak to anyone about any mental health issues, so a group like this is doing great work and may encourage many more men to talk.

    Here’s a link about the story.

    https://www.manutd.com/en/news/detail/man-united-forward-daniel-james-urges-people-to-share-their-mental-health-issues

    Time to Talk Day is a great idea, and I, for one, will ensure I take part.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for this, Hugh. Not being a Man U supporter I hadn’t seen this. It’s the kind of story which often goes under the radar, sadly. Martin Ling, the Director of Football at one of my teams – Leyton Orient – has been very open about his long battle with depression. We need more to speak out and widen awareness – every little helps, as they say. Glad to hear you’ll be doing your bit to help too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Talking, and listening, is the key to connection for us all, no matter the topic. And this one, mental illness, is a much misunderstood topic. I liked how you mentioned “fear of the unknown”. I’d not thought of that in relation to the stigma of mental illness. You have hit on something quite important, Clive. I thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Janet. I think a lot of the stigmatisation results from a lack of understanding and awareness – something which is true in other aspects of life. We shy away from what seems ‘different.’

      Like

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