Choose talk, change lives

Time to Talk Day 2020

Mental health problems affect one in four of us, yet too many people are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless because of this. Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.

We know talking about mental health is not always easy. But starting a conversation doesn’t have to be awkward and being there for someone can make a huge difference.

There is no right way to talk about mental health, but these tips can help you approach a conversation in the most effective way:

Think about the time and place: don’t wait to find the perfect moment
Sometimes it’s easier to talk side by side rather than face to face. So, if you talk in person, you might want to chat while you are doing something else.

It’s important that conversations happen at times and in places that feel natural; in the crew/rest room, making a coffee, out on the road. The more typical the setting, the less unusual and uncomfortable the conversation can feel. Having something else to do at the same time also means that the pressure is off to fill silences, maintain eye contact, and wrap things up in a comfortable way. 

And we know from experience it doesn’t have to be face to face: talking in person is great. It can help to see someone’s facial expressions, read their body language, and give them a hug if that feels right. But some people find it easier to talk about things over the phone or by text, email, WhatsApp. So listen to the person and be sensitive to their needs.

Don’t be afraid to start the conversation
If you know that someone has been struggling don’t be nervous about asking how they’re doing. You don’t need to go into detail but simply ask them ‘good to see you back, how are you now?’

If you think someone has been behaving differently it’s OK to mention that too, if it is done in a kind way. “You’ve seemed a bit quiet recently, is everything alright? I’m here if you want to talk.” This shows that you care and opens the door for them to chat about things when they’re ready.

Ask open, non-judgmental questions and listen to what is said.
Using “how does that affect you” or “what does it feel like?” gives the person space to express how they’re feeling and what they’re going through, and it will help you to understand their experience better.

Ask twice
We know that people often say they’re fine when they’re not. So asking twice is an important way of starting conversations about mental health and letting people know that you really are interested. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable opening up if someone asks, “how are you?” because we think they’re just being polite. But if that person says, “no, really, is everything OK?” we know that they’re not just going through the motions. Even if someone doesn’t feel like talking at that moment, they know you’ll be there to listen when they’re ready.

You can talk about yourself
It can sometimes help someone open up to you if you share your own feelings. You don’t have to disclose a mental health problem to them – you might not have any personal experience of one. But by simply sharing your feelings, that sometimes you feel down, will show that there won’t be any judgement. 

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 to them about it may make it easier for them to open up another time.  And you can still support them even if you’re not talking: by doing things together, sending texts, and offering to help with day-to-day tasks.

Treat them the same as everyone else
When someone has a mental health problem, they’re still the same person as they were before, they don’t want to be treated any differently. If you want to support them, keep it simple. Do the things you'd normally do.

Don't try & fix it. You can’t.
It can be hard to see someone you care about having a difficult time but 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, and they’ve probably considered lots of different tools and strategies already. Just talking can be really powerful, so unless they’ve asked for advice directly, it might be best just to listen.


And if you need to take this time to talk, Debra Winterson (07715 074010) and Dean Stuart (07712 418664) from the former Wellbeing Hub, will be at the end of the phone for a completely confidential conversation between 9 am and 6 pm today, Thursday 6 February.

Published 6th February 2020

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