Time To Talk Day
Today is Time to Talk Day, organised by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, in partnership with Co-op. Today is all about removing the stigma surrounding mental health, by encouraging people to get talking. Whilst we’ve come a long way in taking mental health issues seriously, the ‘stigma’ attached to the term ‘mental health’ still remains. This stigma can help to explain why so many people in the UK with mental health problems are not receiving treatment. In 2021 1 in 4 people were reportedly experiencing mental health problems but studies show that only 36% of people dealing with mental health issues in the UK are receiving treatment.
It’s clear from these statistics that getting people to talk about mental health is of huge importance if we are going to change the way mental health is viewed. We know, however, that this is easier said than done. It can be daunting to start conversations around mental health no matter how much we want to be there for our friends, family, and colleagues. We’ve put together a few United tips that we hope will make you feel more confident when approaching these conversations.
How many times a day do we get asked ‘How are you?’ And how many times do you think you’ve answered that question honestly? The simple act of asking again or following it with ‘are you sure you’re okay? shows that you have a genuine interest in how someone is feeling. Don’t be put off if someone doesn’t open up straight away. By opening up the discussion you have showed them that they have someone wanting to listen when they’re ready.
Ask open questions
We know that it can sometimes feel uncomfortable asking someone private questions. Open questions are a helpful tool when encouraging someone to open up. Some questions you could ask are: ‘How are you feeling, at the moment?’ ‘How long have you felt like this – is it an ongoing issue?’. Remember, there’s never a perfect moment nor the perfect setting to have this kind of conversation. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to talk whilst you’re doing something else, like an activity. This takes the pressure off the conversation and allows it to flow more comfortably.
No quick fixes, just listen
We know that often our knee-jerk reaction when someone tells us they are struggling, is to start giving advice. However, unless you are a mental health professional it is best to be mindful that you may not be the best person to give out this advice. Every person is different and processes their emotions in their own unique ways and offering quick fixes can leave people feeling dismissed and unheard. Truly listening to someone about what is going on with them will make them feel supported and hopefully able to open up.
Be knowledgeable about the support services available
There are so many resources, helplines, and charities available to support people struggling with their mental health. For many, the effort of finding the right support services may seem overwhelming. By offering to do some research about local services, you may ease the pressure they feel and encourage them to get help if they need it. If you’ve been speaking about a topic or illness that you don’t know a lot about, then take the time to do some research so you can be a better support system.
However you do it, start a conversation about mental health today, you never know who might need it.
No one should have to face mental health difficulties on their own, and support is widely available in the UK.
Here is a list of organisations providing expert advice, a listening ear, and resources for managing distress.
Mental health helplines and charities
Samaritans. Samaritans provide 24-hour online and phone support to people in distress. Call: 116 123.
Mind. Mind is a charity that provides advice and support for people experiencing mental health problems in England and Wales. Call: 0300 123 3393 (Mon to Fri, 9 am to 6 pm)
Rethink Mental Illness. Support and advice for people living with mental health problems. Call: 0300 5000 927 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 4pm)
SANE. National out-of-hours mental health charity offering emotional support, guidance, and information. Call: 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm to 10.30pm)
Mental Health Foundation. Information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.