It’s okay to… Talk! Time to Talk Day 2017

Going slightly out of alphabetical order for this post but was very timely.

Last Thursday, 2nd February, was Time to Talk Day, a national day organised by Time to Change to get the nation talking about mental health, to end stigma and discrimination.

I love Time to Talk Day! I ran my first event as a Time to Change Champion in 2016 for Time to Talk Day, which I managed to repeat and make even better this year. It is this event that really got me started in sharing my story and experience of mental health issues with others.

This year’s theme really resonated for me, ‘Conversations change lives’ and I believe they really do. From that first conversation with my Mum at 15 when I admitted that I was really struggling and needed help, to engaging in talking therapies including counselling and CBT, to sharing my experiences with others to increase awareness and understanding, every single one had made a difference. The talking therapies and chatting with my Mum and friends has helped me when I’m struggling but one of the most surprising things for me is how much sharing my story has helped me. Sharing has helped me accept myself and to be comfortable with these feelings. Frequently I’ve had others respond ‘I feel the same’ or ‘I’ve know what you mean’ and just knowing that youยดre not alone in feeling this way can make a huge difference. It’s also helped for others to understand more about me, for instance with friends sometimes I may have to cancel plans because of my mental health but now they have a better idea of why and don’t feel as bad doing it. Then there’s that warm feeling I get when sharing my experience helps others to be open about their feelings and to feel less alone. Sharing really is caring, both for yourself and others.

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As a Time to Change Champion I organised a couple of events for Time to Talk Day. I work in a Student Union and as part of my job I organised an event, in partnership with the University, to engage with students and get them talking. It was a great day and we managed to talk with 573 students throughout the day. I had some really great conversations with a number of students, who were able to open up about their own experiences and even want to go and share their story with others now. The following day we had a staff ยดTime to Talkยด hour, where we all got together for tea and cake. I shared with everyone a little bit of my experience and how I’ve been supported in work. My team and manager have been great and so supportive over the last few months, when I’ve been going through a particularly rough patch, but still standing up there and sharing with everyone else was nerve wracking for me. Ultimately though they were all supportive and after this others then decided to share their experiences which was amazing and more than I could ever had hoped for when planning it. I felt so happy and proud of where I work that we could be open about mental health as unfortunately it isn’t always the case.

Opening up and talking to others isn’t always easy. If you’re planning on talking to someone for the first time about your mental health, it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous. Find someone that you feel comfortable with, whether this a friend, family member or even GP. I’ve written things down to help me prepare and feel more in control in the moment. Equally if there isn’t anyone you feel comfortable to talk with yet there are a number of online forums you can use including Mind’s Elefriends or Blurt’s Peer Support Network. I would also more than recommend checking out Hannah Rainey’s twitter chat #TalkMH. There’s a different theme every week and don’t have to contribute, you can just follow the conversation. I’ve met so many amazing people through this, who are super supportive and inspiring.

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If you don’t have experience of mental illness but know someone who might/does and don’t know how to talk to them about it, it can be easier than you think. Just a simple ‘Hey, how are you?’ and really mean it, or ‘I’ve noticed you don’t seem like yourself, want to talk?’ can make a big difference. Equally for most of us, all we really need you to do is listen. We don’t expect you to understand or to fix it for us, just accept our feelings and be there. Check out these videos from Time to Change for more info:

Thank’s for reading and as always remember, it’s okay!

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