A quarter of people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, with 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week, Mind reports. This is often higher during the winter months, as many people are impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and nearly 40% of participants in research by Mind in 2022 said that their mental health had worsened since the pandemic.
Mental health charity Mind founded Time To Talk Day in 2014, with the aim to increase conversations around mental health. By increasing discussions around mental health issues, where support can be accessed and practises we can adopt to promote mental wellbeing, the charity hopes to break the stigma associated with mental health.
Almost a third of participants in research by Mind say more knowledge and understanding around mental health would make it easier to talk about mental health, and 22% say it would help to have someone in their local community who can offer support with their mental health.
How to talk about mental health
Mind offers tips for talking about mental health that can support you in approaching the conversation in the most productive, supportive way:
- Ask questions and listen. Asking questions can give the person space to express how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. And it can help you to understand their experience better. Try to ask questions that are open and not leading or judgmental. For example, “how does that affect you?” or “what does it feel like?”
- Think about the time and place. Sometimes it’s easier to talk side by side rather than face to face. If you do talk in person, you might want to chat while doing something else. You could start a conversation when you’re walking, cooking or stuck in traffic. But don’t let the search for the perfect place put you off!
- Don't try and fix it. It can be hard to see someone you care about having a difficult time. Try to resist the urge to offer quick fixes to what they’re going through. Learning to manage or recover from a mental health problem can be a long journey. They’ve likely already considered lots of different tools and strategies. Just talking can be really powerful, so unless they’ve asked for advice directly, it might be best just to listen.
- Treat them the same. When someone has a mental health problem, they’re still the same person as they were before. When a friend or loved one opens up about mental health, they don’t want you to treat them any differently. If you want to support them, keep it simple. Do the things you’d normally do.
- Be patient. No matter how hard you try, some people might not be ready to talk about what they’re going through. That’s ok – the fact that you’ve tried to talk may make it easier for them to open up another time.
“Too often we put a brave face on and tell people we’re fine when we’re not because we’re worried about being a burden during difficult times,” says Dr Sarah Hughes, CEO of Mind.
“But bottling things up is only making things worse. Talking about our mental health can help us feel less alone, more able to cope, and encouraged to seek support if we need to. Have a conversation this Time To Talk Day.”
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