February 7th is National ‘Time to Talk‘ day with this years focus being on bringing the right combination of a listening ear, a willingness to be open-minded and plentiful amounts of tea and biscuits together as we discuss mental health
Many of my followers on social media will know that I am currently taking daily medication for anxiety and some years ago took medication for depression. I have absolutely no shame in admitting this and in fact, feel quite proud of the fact that I have addressed my mental health in a positive way (not only with medication, I am also doing other things) Everybody was incredibly supportive when I shared that I had been prescribed medication again so you could be forgiven for thinking that these conversations were more frequent and easier these days but in truth, the stigma around mental health remains.
Figures from Mind mental health organisation show that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. So you would assume with so many people feeling the same way, that we would be able to discuss our thoughts and feelings and work through them together. But that’s not the case. The correct quality of conversations are simply not happening or not happening enough and so as people struggle in silence, problems continue.
Talking about our deepest darkest feelings is scary. It makes us feel exposed and vulnerable as if we are failing somehow. But that’s not the case at all. Recently I have been watching youtube talks buy a world-renowned researcher into vulnerability, Dr Brene Brown. If you have not come across her please take some time to check her out (2 mins below as a taster)
If things are going to change then WE need to change. We need to find the courage to start the hard conversations either because we are struggling ourselves or because we can see through the ‘Im fine’ response from a friend when their sad eyes don’t match their words. We need to be brave enough to say ‘I don’t have the words to make this better but you are not on your own in this’
One of the phrases I hate the most is ‘Man Up’ – the sentiment that to express anything remotely emotional is a sign of feminine weakness and that ‘proper’ men are the ones who can control their emotions and get on with life despite what comes their way. Its phrases like this that make men feel like they can’t acknowledge let alone confess their feelings which I believe is one of the contributing factors to the startling figures that, in 2018, on average, 87 men ended their own lives each week.
At the height of my depression, I was having the very worst types of conversation. The toxic backward and forwards of my own unforgiving voice inside my head. Hearing things like “Harrys syndrome is all my fault” “What did I do to him?” “I’m not a proper mother or wife” “I don’t want to be a special needs parent, I can’t do it” “I’ve failed” “Is just too hard” “It’s better if I die”
Thankfully, my Mum initiated one of those difficult conversations. I am sure she didn’t really want to hear that I had planned to take my own life and leave my boys with their Dad who I felt hadn’t failed them as I had but she risked being vulnerable with me for just a moment. and that moment, that crack in the darkness was all I needed to admit how I was feeling. I honestly don’t know where I would be if my Mum hadn’t been brave enough to have that conversation with me. And so, ahead of ‘Time to Talk’ day, I want to ask two things.
One, that if you are struggling in any way at all, that you let someone know and unburden yourself of the constant mental beating that you absolutely don’t deserve.
Two, that if you see or notice something in someone who means anything to you at all, that you don’t just accept ‘I’m fine’ as an answer and that you remind them that they matter.
One conversation can save a life. It’s time to talk.
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