#TimeToTalk Day 2021


Today is #TimeToTalk Day here in the UK. The day is run by the Time To Change (TTC) 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. This year’s theme is ‘the power of small,’ which TTC explain as meaning:

This year’s focus is on the power of small, because however you have a conversation about mental health – whether it’s a quick text to a friend, a virtual coffee morning with colleagues, or a socially distanced walk and talk with your family – it has the power to make a big difference.”

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.

TTC 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 these prompt cards:

 

There are many other resources there too, giving you plenty of suggestions as to how you might be able to help someone. I love this ‘bingo card’ as it packs so much into an easily digestible format:

In current circumstances, lockdown isn’t making life any easier for those who might be struggling, so TTC are running a virtual festival today. You can find it via their website and this is the programme:

Another new addition this year is a book of poetry, written by a number of people who suffer from mental health issues. This is published today but as a Time To Change Champion I was given early access to it. I encourage you to find it on their website, and it is free to download. There are some very powerful poems in there – I rather like this one:

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for TTC, 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 the story of my return to work, and why I believe this to be so important. I shared it again last year, but I’m guessing many of you won’t have seen it so I think it is worth another airing:

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!

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 that piece, 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, do you know someone who might need help, but hasn’t asked for it? If so, those prompt cards I shared earlier would be a good place to begin. Try it – it will be easier than you think, even in these difficult times when face to face contact might not be possible. As I’m sure you know, there are plenty of other ways to communicate!

 

26 thoughts on “#TimeToTalk Day 2021

  1. Pingback: We Carry On | Take It Easy

  2. This is great Clive and your words and honesty in sharing your experience is the sort of thing that’s needed to remove the stigma that’s attached to mental health issues. I like the idea of Time to Talk day, we have something similar here in Aus called RU OK day? A reason to ask people if they are OK and help them out if not. Take it easy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Debbie, for your kind words. It is sad, but true, that mental health is still stigmatised though I’m hopeful that the aftermath of the pandemic may bring about a change, as the issue will become more widely discussed. It’s good to know you have a similar day there but this may have been our last: Time To Change, the organisation leading it, is closing on 31 March as government is stopping its funding. Fingers crossed someone else picks up the baton!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. the paper of small is a good theme
    and thanks for sharing your story and also Clive, we both know that the outreaches we make (small and large) can splash refreshment in ways we will never see.
    and i understand what you meant about not necessarily being on a crusade but also knowing the value of being active and speaking up.
    there is still stigma
    and one of my pet peeves is that i feel in some circles diagnosing is too fats and some basics are overlooked and they are quick to offer reuitaje inhibitors or other drugs when not everyone needs that.
    but that is another issue and maybe more here in the states –

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank, Yvette. They choose their themes well but sadly this is the last one of these they will be running – government no longer funding them. I think that’s disgracefully short sighted! The issue about over diagnosis and prescription is here too, the difference being that doctors here don’t get paid by the prescription!

      Liked by 1 person

      • that is sad to have the finding pulled!
        and i am sickened by the health care system in US that allows so much profit and allows so
        much money to be made on symptom
        management and not rewarding root cause elimination or cures even!
        although we have recent good news in prison reform –
        they are setting legislation to take away some of the privatized business run prisons!
        omg was this needed

        Liked by 1 person

      • It really is, as they have done much good work.

        Profit, in my view, has absolutely no place in healthcare. We’ve been going that way for the past 20+ years but there is a story in the news today that the government is wanting to take more control over our health service and reduce private involvement. A bad news/good news situation!

        I saw that about your prisons. We have private involvement in ours too, not always successfully.

        Liked by 1 person

      • that is a bad news good news situation

        and hoping to have reform in some of the other areas with police reform
        although i do admit that the news has often depicted i justices that are not happening

        some situations had nothing to do with ethic background – but other times it did
        but what i am talking about with reform here is they are hitting the young offenders with a hammer (like a fly with a hammer)
        and little behavior change results because the punishment is so severe and they do not connect it to the infraction or their actions
        so they became a great and hurt (from the harshness) and more distance happens between them and the so called “man”

        also we do nkt see many good things that happen – so much togetherness that is not newsworthy
        and then i have two examples of local police helping and not arresting and i hope to post about it later this year!
        it is such a touchy topic i want to not post –
        but i need to speak up and have a few video snippets to share –
        either way
        – things could be improved and seriously Clive –
        my heart aches with our judicial system here
        real quick example –
        a year or two ago – these teens were riding mini bikes or dirt bikes across this old thin bridge in richmond
        and it was an example of kids getting a thrill – it was wrong and illegal and dangerous
        but when we heard the plethora of charges being brought against them –
        it sickened me. they even had the dad on the news saying “really?”
        i know rehabilitation plans involve the allowing college degrees to be warned and all of that
        – but it seems more work needs to be done in the arresting phase
        the immediate treating of individuals like criminals and bad guys
        there was a day when warning s were given
        and maybe the boys on the bridge could have been brought home and had cops there and everyone talking
        and the threat of jail and letting them know how bad it was
        and maybe a different approach could have been that very serious warning and a chance for grace
        a chance to let the teens fully see the danger and stupidity of what they did
        but nope
        not today
        arrested and extra charges and now thousands of dollars in leagal fees and young tender boys incarcerated and families hurting

        reform is needed here big time

        and thanks for letting me rant a bit
        😫

        Liked by 1 person

      • A rant is always good. As my Mum used to say, ‘better out than in!’ There is much wrong with our system too, but it pales into insignificance alongside what you have described. I hope your system can change, but it sounds like it will be a long, hard struggle.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. With the stigma attached to mental health, people sometimes don’t know how to respond. That’s where education comes in. It’s compelling when it comes from someone who has experienced it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Clive I think your post is an important one especially at the moment with enforced isolation but also for the future when all this is over as for many that isolation will continue.. . Hopefully the awareness which has been raised with continue and grow and there will be less stigma attached to mental illness… X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carol. We can but hope. I think one of the after effects of the pandemic and lockdowns will be that people may recognise how they affected their own mental health, and maybe this will be a step,on the way towards raising awareness.

      Liked by 1 person

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