27 January 2020
Time to Talk Day takes place annually on the 6th February. It was created to encourage people to talk about mental health and start a conversation in social circles, workplaces and schools. The organisation behind Time to Talk Day believes that the stigma around mental health should be broken and addressed in every aspect of daily life.
What is Time to Talk Day?
Time to Change is the organisation behind Time to Talk Day, and they want to end mental health discrimination. Their goal is to improve attitude and behaviour towards mental health, bridging the gap between the understanding towards physical illnesses and the sometimes-discriminatory stance towards mental illness. The main aim of Time to Talk Day is to get people talking about mental health and understanding more about it. It is hoped that this will improve the lives of those suffering with mental illnesses.
Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to be more open about mental health. Simply talking can change lives, so why don’t we do more of it?
How to talk about mental health
A big issue is the lack of honesty and support within workplaces, schools and other organisations. Time to Change want to address this, and there are many ways that we as a nation can tackle mental health and the stigma attached to it. As well as getting involved in initiatives created by Time to Change, there are simple ways that mental health can become a part of conversation with your peers, students and colleagues.
If you think somebody may be struggling, there is no easy way to talk about it. But the following tips might help:
- Make time with no distractions – setting time aside to start a conversation with someone in a private setting with no disturbances shows you care and want to hear what they have to say.
- Don’t pressure them – let them talk as much or as little as they want. Don’t pressure them into explaining how they feel, or they may close up. Simply listening might be all they want at this stage.
- Ask open questions – asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer can help the person open up. For example, wording questions like ‘how are you feeling this week?’ rather than ‘are you feeling better this week?’ can lead to more honest answers.
- Offer your assistance – tell them that you’re willing to help any way you can. Knowing that they have someone there who isn’t judging them, can be a huge relief. Arrange to do an activity together that can help improve their well-being, like going for a run or cooking a healthy dinner. Doing things like this may inspire them to start doing it by themselves.
- Encourage them to seek professional help – Without taking control, offer to go to a GP with them or provide information on ways they can get professional advice.
- Know your limits – Sometimes you can only do so much yourself. If you think a situation is becoming very serious, it’s okay to take action to guarantee their safety. Ring the NHS on 111 or Samaritans on 116 123 for advice, or 999 if you believe your friend is in danger.
- Don’t forget about yourself – Although you may have promised full confidentiality, things may get too much for you if you don’t speak to anyone else. It’s okay to look after yourself, you don’t have to disclose who your friend is, but getting advice from other people can help you, and in turn help your loved one. Again, seeking advice from a GP or the Samaritans is a good starting point.
Ways to achieve mental wellbeing
Whether you feel like you need to improve your own mental well-being or want to advise others, the following steps can help encourage positivity and a happier mindset.
- Maintain or build relationships – Connect with people; arrange to spend time with family, friends or colleagues. Have dinner, grab coffee or simply go for a walk! If some friends aren’t close-by, calling or video-chatting can also work. Spending time with others can help you build a sense of belonging and create positive memories. It also reminds you of the support system you have. Unfortunately, there may be some unhealthy relationships that aren’t contributing positively to your life. It takes courage to cut these people out, but gradually cutting ties can do wonders for your mental health.
- Exercise – Keeping active can not only improve your physical health, it can help mentally too. When we do physical activity, our body releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the body. Regular exercise has been known to reduce stress, improve sleep, boost self-esteem and ward off feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as countless physical health benefits.
- Learning new things – Trying new activities and learning new skills has shown to improve mental wellbeing. It can boost self-esteem and confidence, whilst helping to build a sense of purpose. In many cases, you will also meet and connect with new people at the same time, which has the added benefits of the point above. You could go as far as joining a new class, or simply take on something new in your career, or work on a DIY project at home.
- Mindfulness – “a mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment”. Paying more attention to the present moment, like your thoughts and feelings, your body, and the world around you, can improve your mental wellbeing. Achieving mindfulness can help turn negative thoughts into positive, by enjoying life more and understanding yourself better. Meditation can help, as well as setting dedicated time aside each day to focus on the world around you.
- Giving back – Giving to others is said to improve our sense of purpose and aid mental wellbeing. Offering to support friends or family, giving random acts of kindness, or volunteering, are fantastic ways to help other people. Giving back can create positive feelings, like purpose, self-worth and a sense of reward.
Some establishments, like The Army Cadet Force, provide an atmosphere which is centred around you helping cadets, as well as meeting others and learning new skills.
“Joining the Army Cadet Force has taken me from the person I was and has made me who I am today. I am so much more confident in my own ability and no longer take life for granted.”
Learn more about Sally-Anne’s experience at the ACF - going from not being able to leave the house due to depression and anxiety, to living life to the full. Joining the ACF as an adult volunteer is a brilliant way to give back to your community, as well as changing your own life. Find your nearest detachment and get involved.