#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!

 

#timetotalk

TTT16

I have told you before about my pledge to the Time To Change initiative, and why I have done this. At the risk of repeating myself, I began blogging to share my experience of depression, in the hope that it would help others. If you want to know more about this please click on About Me or My Story in the menu bar at the top of the site. If you go anywhere near Facebook or Twitter today I hope you see the hashtag #timetotalk, as today is Time To Talk Day – here in the UK, at least. It is also World Cancer Day, but I’ll leave it to others who are far better qualified than I to talk about that.

The designation Time To Talk Day has been started by the Time To Change people, the idea being that as many people as possible make the effort to spend 5 minutes talking about mental health, either directly with someone who may be in need of support or just needs to understand better what this can mean to people, or by other means. This is my way: by sharing some links and information with you I hope it will encourage to you to become better informed about mental health issues. And while you’re doing so, why not sign up to the Pledge Wall?

Time To Change have produced a couple of short videos to show how easy it can be to start a conversation, and how it can be appreciated. For those who are suffering with any kind of mental illness a simple question about how they are feeling can mean so much, so please make the effort if there is anyone you know who may not be feeling their best. Take a look at the videos, this link leads you to both:

As well as, hopefully, opening a conversation here I have also applied for the #timetotalk pack, and have shared the leaflets, coasters etc. with friends, neighbours and at my GP practice. If only one of these leads to someone being helped, my work is done!

I hope you can find 5 minutes today to talk about mental health – however you do it is fine. And I hope you’ll follow the links I’ve given you to find out more: the Time To Change site is packed with useful tips on how to start a conversation in a variety of contexts and also provides a link for anyone who may need to seek help and is afraid to make the first step towards that. For those of you in North America, for whom this may not seem so relevant, you have the Stand Up campaign, which you can access either by clicking on the logo at the top right corner of this site or by clicking here. It is also a very good resource for anyone needing help or advice.

Thanks for reading. I hope we can all make a difference – and not just today.

Time To Talk

Back in November I told you about my pledge to the Time To Change initiative, and why I had done this. At risk of repeating myself, I began blogging to share my experience of depression, in the hope that it would help others. If you want to know more about this – it’s a riveting read! – just click on About Me or My Story in the menu bar at the top of the site. It is now time for some action!

Today has been designated Time To Talk Day by the Time To Change people, the idea being that as many people as possible make the effort to spend 5 minutes talking about mental health, either directly with someone who may be in need of support or just needs to understand better what this can mean to people, or by other means. This is my way: by sharing some links and information with you I hope it will encourage to you to become better informed about mental health issues. And while you’re doing so, why not sign up to the Pledge Wall?

Time To Change have produced a short advert to show how easy it can be to start a conversation, and how it can be appreciated. Take a look:

And if you want to see the effects of not being able to talk, there is a story in today’s paper about Clark Carlisle, the footballer. Clark is an intelligent man who has developed a career beyond the football pitch – appearing on Countdown, as a football pundit, working for the Professional Footballers’ Association…. Here’s what the Daily Telegraph says. It is so sad that someone who is good at communicating cannot bring himself to talk about his illness and attempts suicide as a way out. It is to be hoped that he stays positive, as he says he now is, and continues to talk about his own situation to help himself and others. He would make a very good ambassador for Time To Change!

I hope you can find 5 minutes today to talk about mental health – however you do it is fine. And I hope you’ll follow the links I’ve given you to find out more.

Thanks for reading.