On 4th February 2021, we will acknowledge Time to Talk Day (TTTD), a campaign created by Time to Change, a leading mental health charity. The day supports conversations about mental health and aims to break down some of the barriers to talking about how we are feeling.
Time to Talk day encourages us to open up regarding our emotional wellbeing and break mental health stigma, believing that there are always opportunities in our daily lives, whether at work, school, university or home, to check in with one another’s wellbeing and mental health.
Getting the conversation going about mental health.
If you are concerned about someone’s mental health, or something has happened which may harm that person’s wellbeing (like a bereavement or separation), it can be tempting to ignore some of the signs that this person is struggling, or you might find that you worry about worsening the situation. However, asking that person how they are or voicing your concerns can be the first step to showing that you care for them and acknowledge that right now things are difficult. If you’re unsure on how to start that first conversation about mental health, here are a few tips:
- Step away from the labels: it is best to leave the diagnosing of any conditions to the professionals. Even if you feel that the individual may fit a diagnosis, it is advisable to stay with the feelings and support of the person, rather than be tempted to provide a diagnosis of what you feel the ‘problem’ is and a plan to fix it.
- Listen well: when we are actively listening, we do more than hear. Allow the person to lead the conversation. Try not to interrupt (even if you feel that it would be helpful information), and be encouraging when they are sharing their feelings. Lead the conversation and acknowledge what they are saying by nodding or repeating certain phrases to ensure you have understood it. This will encourage them to share and feel respected and cared for.
- Communication is key: sadly, Time to Talk Day 2021 is subject to pandemic restrictions. It'll be different from most years, as social distancing and lockdowns mean being close to people isn't always possible. However, you can reach out to share feelings via Zoom, text, email, or social media as an alternative to face-to face-contact. Now more than ever, there are different ways to communicate and connect to get the conversations going.
- Respect their readiness: speaking out about mental health is easier for some than others, and timing is everything. It can be difficult when you feel someone may be struggling and not talking about it, yet we need to respect that they may not want to talk. It could be the wrong time, or they do not feel comfortable and pushing a conversation that someone doesn’t want to have can have the opposite effect. If this happens, it is best to acknowledge that you respect they don’t wish to talk and remind them that you are there for them, if they change their mind.